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3 more convicted in massive drug, money laundering case with links to Mexican cartel

Tri-State Jewelers at 630 Race Street, Downtown, was raided by federal agents in November 2019.
Tri-State Jewelers at 630 Race Street, Downtown, was raided by federal agents in November 2019.(Enquirer File)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 5:58 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Seven people connected to a massive drug trafficking and money laundering case that has been tied to a Mexican cartel now have been convicted, court records show.

This week, three more of the 39 defendants pleaded guilty in federal court in Cincinnati.

>> Feds: At least $3.3M in drug proceeds laundered by 2 Cincinnati businesses

The case, which stretches from Cincinnati to Wisconsin to Las Vegas, involves more than $3 million in drug money. Investigators have said they seized 100 pounds of cocaine, 42 pounds of methamphetamine and 19 pounds of fentanyl.

On Tuesday, 62-year-old Carl Rena Gilbert pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy charge. Court documents describe Gilbert, who has ties to Hamilton, as “a sub-distributor” for the drug trafficking organization.

He admitted buying at least half a kilo of cocaine and distributing it to others.

On Wednesday, there were two guilty pleas. Jose Toquillas-Felix admitted maintaining a stash house in Elmwood Place. Court documents say 17 kilos of cocaine was found inside the home in October 2019.

Also pleading guilty Wednesday was 55-year-old Brady Cunningham. He bought cocaine from a man who investigators believe was supplying drug dealers and laundering money from drug sales by purchasing expensive vehicles.

Earlier this summer, two men and two women pleaded guilty to charges connected to the case.

Four others have signed plea agreements but have not yet formally appeared before a judge.

Investigators suspected a link between the drug organization and the Sinaloa Cartel. An official told The Enquirer in 2019 that an intercepted phone conversation showed members “bragging” about their connection to the cartel.

One of the 39 defendants is from Sinaloa, Mexico; two are residents of Las Vegas. The alleged head of the drug trafficking organization is from Wisconsin.

Two local businesses, Tri-State Jewelers and a used car dealership, were utilized to launder drug money, officials said. Tri-State Jewelers, which was located Downtown on Race Street, has since closed.

Between December 2018 and April 2019, court documents say approximately $2.5 million was stored at the jewelry business. During approximately that same time frame, the documents say at least $800,000 was laundered through the dealership.

A man who owned Tri-State Jewelers and who court documents say was previously involved in the dealership, Vyacheslav Minyalo, is among those charged. He and others, including managers at both businesses, are accused of money laundering.

Minyalo, who resigned from his roles with the dealership after being indicted in November 2019, has pleaded not guilty.

The investigation became public in November 2019 after agents with the Drug Enforcement Agency raided Tri-State Jewelers.

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