A North Riverside man faces significant time behind bars after being convicted March 25 by a jury in U.S. District Court of laundering money for Mexican drug traffickers.
Huazhi Han, 43, was convicted on all four counts lodged against him by the U.S. Department of Justice, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, attempted concealment money laundering, conducting a financial transaction with funds represented to be drug proceeds and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
The money laundering counts each carry prison sentences of up to 20 years, while the count regarding the unlicensed money transmitting business carries a prison term of up to five years. Han remains free on $1 million bond while awaiting sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Andrea R. Wood.
In addition to the money laundering conviction, the jury also returned a special verdict ordering the forfeiture of funds and property derived from the money laundering scheme, including $1.5 million in cash, four handguns, a 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 350 4Matic, a 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan and an iPhone.
According to the federal indictment, Han’s role in the money laundering scheme was to pick up drug money from others in the Chicago area and use the cash to purchase and re-sell electronic devices. Han and another person who was not named in the indictment then sent the laundered money back to drug traffickers in Mexico.
Federal agents arrested Han in November 2017 after accepting bags containing about $200,000 in cash from a man who was cooperating with the feds after being arrested for a similar offense a day earlier.
An alleged drug trafficker had instructed the man to deliver the roughly $200,000 in drug proceeds to Han, and the two arranged to meet on Nov. 10, 2017 on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
After the man cooperating with the feds handed over the money to Han, agents pulled over Han’s Grand Caravan and arrested him. Agents seized the cash, two cellphones and a loaded Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun from the vehicle.
Federal agents then searched Han’s North Riverside home where they recovered almost $1.3 million in cash concealed above a drop ceiling in the basement, three more firearms, ammunition and a money counter.
The federal jury returned its verdict after a two-week trial in Chicago. A sentencing date has not yet been set.