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Toy firm owners get 3 years in money laundering case

January 31, 2012 |  4:31 pm

The owners of a Los Angeles toy company that made teddy bears were sentenced to federal prison terms Tuesday for their roles in helping launder drug money for Colombian and Mexican traffickers.

Meichun Cheng Huang and Ling Yu, owners of Angel Toy Company, were immediately taken into custody after being sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.

The U.S. attorney's office said the company had twin reputations – as a manufacturer of plush toys and as an international leader in laundering dirty money.

The toy company, federal prosecutors said in a statement, was part of the so-called “Black Market Peso Exchange,” which trades drug money in the United States for "clean" Colombian pesos through the international purchase and shipment of goods.

Huang, 58, of Irvine and Yu, 53, of Arcadia pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to structure currency transactions after Colombian and Mexican clients dropped cash off at the company's downtown headquarters or deposited it directly into the company's bank accounts.

The cash enters the legitimate financial system through numerous deposits into accounts held by a legitimate business in the United States. The money is returned to drug traffickers when actual goods, like teddy bears, are exported to the foreign countries and sold to generate local “clean" money, the release explained.

During one four-year period, the investigation tracked more than $8 million in cash deposit into the toy company’s accounts, and not a single transaction was for more than $10,000, according to court documents.

The case involving Angel Toys was the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division and the California attorney general’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

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-- Dalina Castellanos

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