Paraguayan ex-official sentenced in money laundering scheme

March 24, 2022 GMT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A former member of Paraguay’s Congress has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for her role in an international money laundering scheme, federal prosecutors in New Jersey announced Thursday.

Cynthia Elizabeth Tarragó Diaz, 42, and her husband, Raimundo Va, 46, had pleaded guilty in September 2020 to conspiracy to commit money laundering. She received a 33-month sentence and was told to forfeit $119,049. Va is scheduled to be sentenced April 14.

The couple agreed to accept at least $2 million in U.S. currency from individuals they thought were drug traffickers, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey.

The alleged drug traffickers were actually undercover FBI agents investigating a money laundering network. They met with the couple numerous times and secured audio and video recordings detailing how the laundering network functioned.

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Tarragó and Va traveled to New Jersey and Florida on numerous occasions and accepted roughly $800,000 that was laundered and transferred back into the account maintained by the agents. Tarragó also indicated she could help procure large amounts of inexpensive cocaine from Paraguay, authorities say.

Tarragó, a former television personality, was a member of Paraguay’s Congress until January 2019 and had, in late 2019, announced her intention to run for mayor of Asunción, the capital district.

The couple was arrested in November 2019 after arriving in Newark and charged along with Rodrigo Alvarenga Paredes, who prosecutors said remains in Paraguay.