Judicial authorities in Tampa disclosed the indictment against a Cuban woman for smuggling an incredible sum of money into the United States from Cuba.
Federal prosecutor Roger B. Handberg announced the arrest and the filing of a criminal complaint accusing this woman of smuggling $110,000 from the island to the northern territory.
According to the information, Lara Mirtza Ocaña, 38 years old, of Cuban origin and a resident of Tampa, arrived at Tampa International Airport on February 5th on an international flight from Cuba.
Upon her arrival, she was found with about $10,000, which she claimed to have obtained from the sale of a house on the island.
However, upon inspecting her luggage, DHS agents discovered another $30,000 in cash hidden inside 3 sealed packages.
Upon finding the second sum of money, the agents searched her and found another incredible amount hidden in her clothing: an additional $70,000.
Unable to deny the evidence, Ocaña admitted that she carried out such operations about three times a month, serving as a “mule,” and that she was fully aware that bringing large sums of cash into the United States without declaring it was a crime.
The detainee confessed that she received payments for transferring the cash ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 per trip, and according to her passport, she had traveled 45 times between Cuba and Tampa since May 2023.
After appearing in court this Tuesday, a judge ordered her release under a house arrest program and she was fitted with an electronic monitoring device.
She must seek employment and undergo psychiatric care as ordered by the judicial authority.
Lara Mirtza Ocaña was allegedly unemployed according to her personal records and did not speak English. Contrary to what might be expected, in September 2023, she created a private company named OCANA&PARADISE, LLC.
A search through her Instagram and TikTok profiles revealed promotions for air and sea shipments of food and medicine to Cuba.
The case is currently being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Customs and Border Protection Field Operations, and will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Buchanan.
If found guilty, she could face up to 5 years in prison in a U.S. government correctional institution.
The case has sparked disbelief and astonishment not only because of the large sum of money confiscated but also because she was traveling from Cuba to the United States and not the other way around, raising questions about the source of so much money.
Various hypotheses suggest that the cash might belong to small and medium-sized enterprises (Mypimes) sending money to their suppliers or to deposit in overseas accounts of U.S. residents who have sold properties on the island.
It is also alarming that if she traveled so many times previously, how Cuban customs and immigration services never noticed this activity.
Cuban laws regulate that a traveler can take up to $5,000 in cash out of the national territory, and in case of intending to exceed that amount, would need authorization from the Central Bank of Cuba.
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