SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A Union City woman is accused of secretly working with San Francisco drug dealers and using her position as a money services teller to wire money to bank accounts in Mexico.
Investigators became suspicious of Yessenia Margarita Barrientos-Lainez, 42, after Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested a Tenderloin drug dealer on June 1. Investigators said they found text messages exchanged between the dealer and the teller discussing a conspiracy for laundering drug dealing profits into foreign bank accounts.
The money services business where Barrientos worked is located in the Tenderloin, a neighborhood plagued by rampant open-air drug markets and fatal drug overdoses.
This week, the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of California charged Barrientos with conspiring to launder drug proceeds by wiring large sums of money abroad.
Barrientos’ alleged co-conspirator is well known to DEA agents as a Bay Area drug trafficker.
On May 1, Barrientos sent the drug dealer a text message alerting him that her boss had left her workplace and he could drop off cash while the boss was gone.
The drug dealer then sent Barrientos a text message containing a photograph depicting three handwritten names and bank account numbers. The teller later sent him photographs showing receipts for thousands of dollars wired to each of the three names and account numbers, the criminal complaint states. Two of the bank accounts were located in Sinaloa, Mexico.
According to a federal criminal complaint, some customers who went to the business would ask specifically for Barrientos to handle their money. Barrientos was also seen meeting with mysterious men parked just outside the business who handed her bags of cash, investigators said.
On April 25, surveillance cameras at the money services business recorded Barrientos walking outside to retrieve a white plastic bag from a person waiting inside a parked car. Cameras then recorded her walking back inside, pulling large amounts of cash out of the white bag at her teller station, running the cash through a money counting machine, processing wire transfers with no customers present at her teller window, and using her own cellphone to take photographs of the money and receipts.
Barrientos charged an under-the-table fee to process secret wire transfers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She was fired from her job in mid-May.
Barrientos was arrested on October 26 and bailed out of jail the following day. She is scheduled to make her second court appearance Thursday. If convicted, she will face up to 20 years in prison, and pay half a million dollars in fines.
This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces investigation. OCDETF’s mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle California’s highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations.