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Federal grand jury indictment names L.A. toy company execs in money laundering scheme

July 2, 2010 |  4:20 pm

A federal grand jury indicted a Los Angeles toy company and three of its executives for allegedly laundering millions of dollars for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels in a scheme that "cleaned" money when the firm exported Teddy bears and Topo Gigio dolls to foreign countries, authorities said Friday.

The two co-owners of Angel Toy Co., Meichun Cheng Huang, 57, of Irvine and Ling Yu, 52, of Arcadia and the company's accountant, Xiaoxin "Judy" Ju, 48, of San Gabriel, were arrested without incident Friday morning at the toy firm  in the 900 block of South Alameda Street.

Federal authorities alleged that over a four-year period, the company laundered $8.6 million in drug proceeds.

Charges against the trio, as well as the toy company itself and Colombian businessman Leonardo Cuevas Otalora, include money laundering, conspiracy to structure crash transactions to avoid federal requirements for any cash transaction exceeding $10,000 be reported to authorities, said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Huang also faces a charge of witness tampering for allegedly threatening one of his employees who had been called to testify before the grand jury about allegations in the case.

The indictment culminates a two-year investigation by agents with ICE, Homeland Security Investigations and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

Angel Toy Co. co-owners directed their Colombian and Mexican clients to drop cash at the firm's L.A. headquarters or use direct deposit into the company's bank accounts, the indictment alleges. Anytime there were cash deliveries of more than $10,000--company employees were told to reduce the amounts below that level before placing them in company accounts, federal agents alleged.

Once the deposits were made, Angel Toy executives wired the money to China to buy stuffed animals that included Teddy bears and dolls of Topo Gigio, made famous on CBS' "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The toys were exported to Colombia, where federal authorities said Cuevas arranged sales using local currency. That currency was used to reimburse Colombian drug traffickers in what authorities labeled a "black market peso exchange."

"It's no small irony that a multimillion-dollar company which promoted itself as retailer of cuddly stuffed animals was allegedly acting as a financial linchpin for drug trafficking operatives in Colombia and Mexico," ICE Director John Morton said in a statement. "It may be a toy company, but we believe these defendants' pursuits were anything but child's play."

--Andrew Blankstein