An Oakland man who owns a money-wiring service has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in a plea deal, after pleading guilty to money-laundering charges.

51-year-old Ornelas Mora of Oakland was originally charged in August 2022 with conspiracy to commit money laundering, along with several of his cashier employees. Mora's business on International Boulevard, called Rincon Musical, was discovered by federal agents following the arrests of drug dealers in 2020, and the business was found listed in wire receipts on those dealers' phones.

In the case of one known drug trafficker, Rincon Musical reportedly helped to transfer more than $109,000 to Honduras and Mexico. The bulk of other transactions went to recipients in these two countries.

According to a Google Street View image of the business from May 2022, Rincon Musical operated as a location of the Ria Money Transfer service.

Federal investigators found that Mora's employees, despite receiving annual money-laundering training required by the federal government, were taught how to circumvent federal reporting requirements by splitting up large cash transfers into smaller amounts below $3,000 — which is the federal threshold for that reporting. The company also had a procedure for disguising drug dealers's transfers using the names of legitimate customers as senders.

Undercover agents conducted multiple transactions at Rincon Musical, observing how employees split up the transfers into smaller amounts, and used different names when the agents said they did not want their names on the transactions.

As part of his plea agreement, Mora admitted to owning the business and directing these practices.

"Money and greed are the foundation of the cartel business model and Ornelas Mora provided a lifeline by laundering drug proceeds,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Clark in a statement. "This sentence underscores our commitment to aggressively pursue every level of the drug supply chain to include those facilitators who enable transnational criminal networks."

"This defendant knowingly aided Bay Area drug dealers by disguising drug money as remittances and laundering it through his business through wire payments to Mexico," said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick D. Robbins in a statement. "By disrupting the flow of drug money, this Office demonstrates its commitment to a sweeping approach to combatting the drug trade in the Northern District of California. Today’s sentence should send a signal to other money services businesses who launder drug proceeds and abuse the financial system: we will find you and we will prosecute you."

In addition to his 18-month sentence, Mora will serve three years of supervised release.

Mora was originally charged alongside cashiers Griselda Cancelada Liceaga, Veronica Mora, and Yoselin Perez Ramirez. It's not clear from federal records where their cases stand, or if they've taken plea agreements as well.

Photo via Google Street View