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Rep. Chu's Bill to Fight Money Laundering by Drug Cartels Passes Senate, House

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Location: Washington, DC

Rep. Judy Chu, D-CA, today celebrated the final passage of the Preserving Foreign Criminal Assets for Forfeiture Act of 2010 in the United States House of Representatives. The bill will is now on its way to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.

Sponsored by Congresswoman Chu and Rep. Ted Poe, R-TX, in the House, and Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, and John Cornyn, R-TX, in the Senate, this bill would allow U.S. law enforcement to more easily freeze the illicit proceeds of international criminal organizations in U.S. financial institutions, in the hopes of preserving those assets for future seizure.

The concept for the bill came about after conversations between the Congresswoman and U.S. and Mexican officials following the death of Agustin Roberto "Bobby" Salcedo. Salcedo, a respected educator and school board member in the Congresswoman's 32nd District, who was gunned down by suspected narcotics traffickers while visiting his wife's family in Gomez Palacio, Durango, Mexico on New Year's Eve 2009.

Many of the officials contacted by the Congresswoman said the best way to combat the drug cartels responsible for the violence in Mexico is to provide law enforcement with better means of interdicting their money laundering operations.

"Foreign criminals are able to protect hundreds of millions of dollars in dirty money by moving their proceeds abroad before US police can seize them -- enabling them to continue their illegal activities," said Rep. Chu. "With this vote today, we move one step closer to providing law enforcement with another tool to fight the drug cartels - by cutting off their life-blood and allowing federal law enforcement to seize these illicit assets."

"I applaud my colleagues in both the House and Senate for their unanimous support of this important legislation," stated Poe. "Currently, US law only allows us to seize a drug cartel member's assets in the United States after a final judgment has been issued in a Mexican criminal court. With a conviction rate of less than 5% in Mexico, this means that we are unable to seize a majority of cartel assets in the United States before the money has disappeared. The legislation would allow a US court to issue a restraining order to freeze these assets after ruling that there is evidence of criminal activity. Not only will this increase our ability to hit these cartels financially, but also use those resources to fund additional investigations and prosecutions."

Under the U.S. Constitution, the president now has 10 days to act on the bill. However, the White House has signaled its steadfast support for the legislation and President Obama is expected to quickly sign it into law.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that hundreds of millions of dollars have been laundered by international criminal organizations because the defendants moved the assets out of the U.S. before the U.S. courts could seize them.

Representative Judy Chu was elected in July 2009 to the U.S. House of Representatives as the Representative of California's 32nd District, which includes East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. She is a member of the House Judiciary, Government Oversight, and Education and Labor Committees.

Congresswoman Chu's career in politics spans 24 years. A lifelong educator, Congresswoman Chu taught community college classes in Los Angeles and East Los Angeles for 20 years. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology and a B.A. in mathematics.


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