Mixer: Thread and bread, the cartel connection

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Hundreds of federal agents descended this week on downtown Los Angeles’ Fashion District, making arrests as part of what prosecutors say is a sophisticated operation to launder money for Mexican drug cartels.

Authorities took 9 people into custody, and seized more than $90 million.

Federal prosecutors are calling it “Operation Fashion Police”.

Joe Mathews, from Zocalo Public Square, and Joe Mozingo, who reports for the Los Angeles Times, both joined us to talk about this big investigation.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said the two-year-long operation is striking at the heart of the district’s dirty money trade, leaving a huge hole, she said, in the profits of Mexican drug cartels.

Interesting to me is the fact that this probe has been going on for 2 years and – in this day and age of instant information – nothing has been reported on it.

Mozingo says a few informational nuggets have gotten out, but because of the nature of the case – and its sensitivity toward Sinaloan kidnappings in Mexico – it’s been difficult to get anything more than hearsay and rumors.

For years, these tiny businesses have been mom and pop operations. But moms and pops, I don’t think, want to fund kidnappers. So prosecutors say there was some kind of promise of monetary gain that may have been going on. Perhaps even intimidation of those shop owners.

These arrests happened not only in the Fashion District, but elsewhere as well. People from as far away as La Canada-Flintridge and Bel Air were arrested. To which Joe Mathews congratulated the district for bringing so many people, from such different stripes, together.

City News Service reports authorities most recently posted seizure notices on three homes, including a Pasadena mansion worth about $8 million.

The garment trade and its nearly 3,000 businesses is the largest manufacturing sector in the area.

In other news, suspended State Senator Roderick Wright was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 3 years’ probation for not living in the district he represented.

Wright said he lived in Inglewood, but prosecutors contended that his residence was really in Baldwin Hills.

While Wright has been suspended from the Senate, he hasn’t stepped down. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has called on him to do that.

Former LA City Councilman Richard Alarcon is facing the same fate after being convicted on similar charges.