Kansas business owner and Missouri woman admit roles in $4.7 million drug conspiracy

Date:

Kansas City, Missouri – A 48-year-old Mexican citizen, Ana Lilia Leal-Martinez, residing in Overland Park, Kansas, and 54-year-old Flor Gonzalez-Celestine of Kansas City, Missouri have pleaded guilty to charges related to a large-scale drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. Their guilty pleas were entered today before U.S. Chief District Judge Beth Phillips in federal court.

Details of the Money Laundering Operation

Leal-Martinez, the owner of Imagen Leal, a money transfer service in Olathe, Kansas, admitted her role in laundering proceeds from heroin and methamphetamine trafficking. Between January 1, 2022, and June 8, 2022, she wired $83,850 to individuals in Michoacan, Mexico, using her business. These transfers were structured under assumed names to evade detection. Leal-Martinez’s activities were part of a broader conspiracy that operated from May 23, 2020, to September 20, 2022.

Connection to a Larger Drug Trafficking Network

The investigation, initiated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), exposed a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing over 335 kilograms of methamphetamine, 22 kilograms of heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl in the Kansas City area. The organization’s activities involved numerous bulk cash smugglers and drug traffickers, culminating in a $4.7 million conspiracy. Leal-Martinez was one of 44 defendants indicted in this case.

Co-Defendant’s Involvement

Gonzalez-Celestine, who also pleaded guilty today, was implicated in the $4.7 million conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin. Her participation included four controlled drug buys monitored by law enforcement. She sold over a kilogram of methamphetamine to a confidential informant and was found with approximately 2.2 additional kilograms of methamphetamine.

Read also: Kansas City Man admits illegal ammunition possession and assault on federal officer

Previous Guilty Pleas

Jose Jesus Sanchez-Mendez, known as “Michoacano,” has previously pleaded guilty to his involvement in the continuing criminal enterprise, drug trafficking, money laundering conspiracies, and illegal reentry into the United States. His sentencing, along with those of Leal-Martinez and Gonzalez-Celestine, will be scheduled following the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

Sentencing and Potential Penalties

Leal-Martinez faces a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Gonzalez-Celestine is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in federal prison without parole. The actual sentencing will be determined by the court based on advisory guidelines and other statutory factors.

Prosecution and Investigation

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick C. Edwards and Megan A. Baker. The investigation was conducted by a coalition of agencies, including Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Jackson County Drug Task Force, IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Independence, Missouri Police Department, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minnesota State Patrol, the Olmsted County, Minnesota Sheriff’s Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the Clay County, Missouri Sheriff’s Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

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