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28 charged with money laundering

Federal indictments unsealed Monday reveal that 28 people have been charged in a complex international drug money laundering operation.

Two Tampa brothers, Alvaro Garces and Miquel Garces, are named in one indictment. They are charged with picking up $3.5-million in cash in Houston on Jan. 26 and Feb. 7, and delivering the money to undercover agents in Tampa and Tallahassee. The Garces received about $20,000 in commission for a single $2-million pickup, according to the indictment.

Several of the defendants, who come from the United States, Panama and Colombia, remain in jail today, after their attorneys Monday requested a delay in bail hearings until later this week.

Among those charged are two Merrill Lynch executives working in Panama, a retired Peat Marwick accountant also living in Panama, and a Panamanian lawyer.

Gary Trombley, attorney for Frank L. Greene, a 70-year-old Merrill Lynch vice president with 26 years experience in the company, said Monday that he expects Greene to be released on bail.

"He adamantly denies he was involved in any money laundering," Trombley said.

The five indictments result from an undercover operation launched by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 1992. The investigation appears to have Robert Mazur's signature all over it.

Mazur, a Customs agent-turned-DEA-agent, is a law enforcement legend.

It was Mazur's deep-cover masquerade as money-launderer Robert Musella that led to charges against the Bank of Credit and Commerce International in 1988.

Though Mazur is not identified as the agent in the latest investigation, the level of sophistication and types of transactions involved in the case mirror what was presented in the BCCI case.

Mazur's boss, Tampa DEA chief Mike Powers, said he could not comment on the investigation, but did not deny that it was Mazur's work.

The indictments detail how U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents posed as money brokers and money launderers to move millions in cash from the streets of U.S. cities. The cash moved through a series of shell corporations and investment accounts in several countries, and back to the pockets of Colombian drug kingpins.

Along the way, the agents revealed to various financial executives, businessmen and bankers that the money came from drug sale proceeds, according to the indictments.