An Indian-American entrepreneur has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for using his perfume distribution business to launder millions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels.
51-year-old Vikram Datta, who was found guilty in September last year on money-laundering charges, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court in New York.
"Datta used his perfume business to remove the stench from Mexican drug cartel money, and now he will pay a steep price for his crimes," Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
She said the "sentence should make anyone think twice about getting into business with narcotics traffickers."
Datta owned multiple retail perfume stores on the US-Mexico border and sold significant amounts of perfume to Mexican purchasers.
As payment, he accepted millions of dollars in cash that had been generated from drug sales in the US.
According to trial evidence, Mexican money exchange businesses purchased these "narco dollars" in exchange for Mexican pesos.
The narco dollars were transported back into the US and used to purchase perfume at businesses, including Datta's, located in Laredo, Texas.
In 2010, Drug Enforcement Administration undercover agents met Datta, who admitted that he was receiving "a lot of cash" from his customers on the border and that "it's all Sinaloa money," a reference to the Sinaloa Cartel, a major Mexican narcotics trafficking organisation.
Datta also acknowledged that his business was "just washing the whole money."
The DEA's analysis of financial records revealed that from January 2009 through January 2011, more than 25 million dollars in US currency was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Datta and his co-conspirators.
Datta also frequently failed to file financial reports concerning cash transactions, which were mandatory for transactions totalling more than 10,000 dollars.