DENVER — Some Colorado restaurants are tied to Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, also known as “El Chapo,” according to court records filed in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Documents filed Wednesday allege as many as 17 restaurants in Colorado and Wyoming helped El Chapo launder money. Prosecutors state that a Colorado Springs-based food distributor called El Potosino used Mexican restaurants to mix false or inflated sales with legitimate sales.
“The scheme’s purpose was to make the illicit drug proceeds appear legitimate,” the lawsuit states.
One restaurant chain named in the lawsuit is Taco Star, which has several locations along Colorado’s Front Range, including in the Denver area. Three restaurants in Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming were also part of the alleged scheme, according to the Casper Star Tribune.
The court documents filed Wednesday were Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Levi Martin’s challenge to the defendants’ legal team’s effort to dismiss the case.
Investigators identified El Postino as a potential front for the Sinaloa cartel in 2016. Taco Star was noted as suspicious due to payments of more than $200,000 to El Potosino. Another piece of evidence cited in documents is that investigators spoke to other food distributors in the Colorado Springs area, and none were familiar with El Postino.
The documents further allege that the El Chapo’s cartel laundered money through the restaurants by distributing beef at inflated prices.
“Because the purchases are for some products that are not drugs, the legitimate purchases enable the money launderer to commingle illicit proceeds with seemingly legitimate proceeds in an effort to conceal the illicit proceeds’ true origin,” the document states.
Those cited in the case include Cosme D. Gutierrez, Carolina Almanza and Ada Cejudo-Mancinas. All three have ties to either Taco Star or Almansita’s, which is located in Greeley.