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Episode 418: A Fake Bank For Money Laundering Run By The Government

Special agents celebrate their fake offshore bank with apple juice.
Bill Bruton
Special agents celebrate their fake offshore bank with apple juice.

This episode originally ran in November 2012.

Yesterday, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was found guilty of running an international drug smuggling operation. He made so much in drug proceeds that he had to smuggle the cash out of the U.S. in private planes and launder it through a bunch of front companies.

This reminded us of an episode we ran a few years ago about an operation the U.S. government undertook to try to capture people exactly like El Chapo: Drug kingpins who needed a way to store tons of heavy, bulky, space-consuming cash without getting noticed.

On today's show, we hear what happened when two U.S. agents—one IRS, one DEA—got the wild idea to create a fake offshore bank to catch drug traffickers.

Music: "Sea View Villa," "Mr. Bikinis," and "The Whole Way Home."

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David Kestenbaum is a correspondent for NPR, covering science, energy issues and, most recently, the global economy for NPR's multimedia project Planet Money. David has been a science correspondent for NPR since 1999. He came to journalism the usual way — by getting a Ph.D. in physics first.
Sarah Gonzalez is the multimedia education reporter for WLRN's StateImpact Florida project. She comes from NPR in D.C. where she was a national desk reporter, web and show producer as an NPR Kroc Fellow. The San Diego native has worked as a reporter and producer for KPBS in San Diego and KALW in San Francisco, covering under-reported issues like youth violence, food insecurity and public education. Her work has been awarded an SPJ Sigma Delta Chi and regional Edward R. Murrow awards. She graduated from Mills College in 2009 with a bachelorâ
Chana Joffe-Walt
Sarah Gonzalez
Sarah Gonzalez is a host and reporter with Planet Money, NPR's award-winning podcast that finds creative, entertaining ways to make sense of the big, complicated forces that move our economy. She joined the team in April 2018.
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