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Stuffed Animal Money Laundering Ring Corralled

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 06, 2010 1:31 PM

Here is a case of life imitates art, but on an ever bigger, badder platform. Begin, for instance with the Audrey Hepburn move Wait Until Dark about thieves trying to steal back a heroin stuffed doll from a blind woman. Move on to the drug stuffed Teddies at a Build-a-Bear operation in the Bronx in 2009. And now we have Angel Toy Company co-owners Meichun Cheng Huang and Ling Yu, arrested, along with chief executive officer Xiaoxin Ju on Friday, July 2 and charged with money laundering through the multi-million dollar sales of their cute little stuffed animals.

Stuffing the actual animals with drugs is so last year. To run on a truly global scale, up to date drug lords are allegedly using the cuddly creatures as a front, not a conduit. According to the Associated Press, multiple government agencies have finally seen results from what was a two year investigation into the activities at Angel Toy.

According to the report of the indictment, it worked something like this. Reps from the drug trafficking operations would drop money at the Angel Toy warehouse in Los Angeles, or deposit it in $10,000 chunks in company accounts. The toy manufacturers took money and sent it to China to purchase the stuffed animals. The toys were then allegedly sent on to Colombia, where a businessman sold them and gave the proceeds, in pesos, back to the drug traffickers.

According to the AP, Colombian authorities say they have arrested the alleged reseller, Jose Cuevas Otalora. He will undergo extradition proceedings to the U.S.

Other charges include conspiracy to structure case transactions, and the Angel Toy company is charged with conspiracy to launder money. Ling Yu also faces a charge of conspiring to smuggle cash out of the U.S., and Meichun Cheng Huang is charged with witness tampering for allegedly pressuring an Angel Toy worker not to talk to a grand jury in the case.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown noted the irony of the set-up. "You have these dangerous foreign drug dealers using cuddly stuffed animals as a way to cover their nefarious operation," Brown told the AP. "They must have been good at teddy bear sales."

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