A federal indictment has alleged an alliance between one of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels and Chinese underground bankers—who are accused of jointly conspiring to cover up more than $50 million in drug profits. 

A Tuesday press release from the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs detailed the 10-count indictment, which charged 24 Los Angeles-based Sinaloa drug cartel associates with working alongside groups that have been linked to Chinese underground banking systems. 

The name given to the federal government’s multi-year investigation was “Operation Fortunate Runner.” It ended with a superseding indictment of the group back in April, though it was only unsealed on Monday—revealing that the 24 individuals were each charged with one count of conspiring to perpetuate the distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and one count of conspiring to operate an unlicensed monetary transmitting company. 

“The superseding indictment alleges that a Sinaloa Cartel-linked money laundering network collected and, with help from a San Gabriel Valley, California-based money transmitting group with links to Chinese underground banking, processed large amounts of drug proceeds in U.S. currency in the Los Angeles area,” explains the DOJ press release. 

“They then allegedly concealed their drug trafficking proceeds and made the proceeds generated in the United States accessible to cartel members in Mexico and elsewhere,” it continued. 

Chinese and Mexican law enforcement agencies collaborated with the Justice Department to arrest fugitives who fled the United States to other countries after being indicted and initially charged last year. 

Edgar Joel Martinez-Reyes, 45, is the lead defendant. According to reporting done by the Associated Press, prosecutors say that Martinez-Reyes played the part of manager—leading couriers who retrieved the drug cash from the Los Angeles area. Authorities say that he partnered with leaders of the Chinese money laundering operation and traveled to Mexico to negotiate contracts with the Sinaloa cartel. 

Anne Milgram of the Drug Enforcement Administration said at a recent news conference, “This investigation shows that the Sinaloa Cartel has entered into a new criminal partnership with Chinese nationals who launder money for the cartels.” 

Drug seizures at the unsecured southwest border have dropped over the past four years, although hundreds of thousands of pounds of illegal drugs have still been seized.

Meanwhile, there has been a rise in encounters with Chinese nationals. 

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the number of Chinese nationals encountered at the southwest border during fiscal year 2024 has already eclipsed the numbers of the previous three years.

In FY 2024, there have been 27,700 encounters with Chinese nationals from October to April, as their data for May has yet to be released. During the entire FY 2023, that number was 24,314—compared to only 2,176 in FY 2022 and 450 in FY 2021.

Kyle Bass of the Committee on Present Danger: China has been warning of the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to America for some time. 

He told Texas Scorecard previously that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s (CBP) processing amounts to little more than taking the illegal alien’s name, releasing them, and telling them to come back for a court hearing on a specific day. “Most of the Chinese go to New York and LA,” he said. “Why are we letting in Chinese military-age males … into our country when the Director of National Intelligence lists China as the number one threat to U.S. national security? It makes no sense whatsoever.” 

Will Biagini

Will was born in Louisiana and raised in a military family. He currently serves as a journalist with Texas Scorecard. Previously, he was a senior correspondent for Campus Reform.