CLEANING DRUG MONEY AT CASINO: Drug Dealers Sonyia and Frankie Cruz were shoving thousands of dollars into slots at a Maryland casino and cashing out after losing twenty bucks

Federal Judge Sentenced Couple to 18 Months in Federal Prison for Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substances and a Money Laundering Conspiracy in Easy Plea Deal

Greenbelt, Maryland – There can only be one reason for a couple to wind up with only eighteen months in the slammer for moving big quantities of drugs and laundering the cash by gambling. They must have snitched on a bigger fish.

U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Sonyia Cruz, 52, of San Jose, California, and Frankie Cruz, 46, of San Jose, California, to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to distribute controlled substances and conspiring to commit money laundering.

The sentence was announced on April 9, 2021, by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

According to their plea agreements, beginning in at least 2014, the married couple of Frankie and Sonyia Cruz conducted marijuana sales by purchasing bulk amounts of marijuana (24 to 25 pounds per order), shipping the marijuana to their rental home on 8431 Winding Trail in Laurel, Maryland, and repackaging the drug parcels to sell in the District of Columbia for $2,800 or $2,900 per pound.  The Cruzes then shipped the proceeds back to California after laundering the money at a Maryland Casino.  In the spring of 2016, they also conducted marijuana sales in North Carolina. 

From October 2015 through November 2016, Frankie Cruz, Sonyia Cruz, and other conspirators laundered approximately $674,897 derived from marijuana sales at a Maryland casino.

 The Cruzes attempted to laundered funds by feeding large amounts of currency into slot machines, engaging in minimal gaming activity, and cashing out the remainder of the proceeds.

 For example, on January 6, 2016, surveillance cameras captured Sonyia Cruz retrieving large stacks of money in small denominations from her purse and handing the funds to Frankie Cruz and a co-conspirator. Sonyia Cruz, Frankie Cruz, and a co-conspirator inserted the large piles of cash into various slot machines and engaged in minimal gaming activity when others walked by, spending less than $10 for every $500 they put into the machine. 

They then collected their fraudulent winnings in the form of a barcode encoded ticket, which totaled the equal value of the currency the conspirators deposited into the slot machines minus the minimal gaming expenditures.  In some instances, Frankie Cruz deposited as much as $2,000 into a slot machine and cashed the same amount in the form of a ticket.

Sonyia Cruz, Frankie Cruz, and a co-conspirator conducted this activity for four hours from 9 pm on January 6, 2016, to 1 am on January 7, 2016.  Sonyia Cruz divided the fixed winnings amongst herself, Frankie Cruz, and a co-conspirator.  All three individuals used various automated cash-out kiosks to retrieve the value of their tickets in $20 denominations. 

In spite of running a lucrative multi-level marketing business in whacky tobaccy, the couple didn’t bother paying their rent and were taken to District Court in Anne Arundel County on December 2, 2016, by BMG Laurel LLC.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner praised the HSI and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dwight Draughon and David I. Salem, who prosecuted the case.

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