Cartier Heir Caught Laundering Crypto In 100KG Cocaine Bust

How a purported Cartier descendant and Colombian nationals utilized cryptocurrency in a major international money laundering and narcotics operation.

Maximilien de Hoop Cartier sitting in a chair with an explosion of money, cocaine and Tether coins around him.
Created by Gabor Kovacs from DailyCoin
  • Maximilien de Hoop Cartier was apprehended for financial crimes tied to drug proceeds.
  • Five Colombians were detained and charged with laundering drug money through crypto.
  • Millions laundered using Tether to transfer drug proceeds from the U.S. to Colombia.

The links between financial crime and crypto again come under scrutiny. This time, after a high-profile drug-tied arrest of a purported member of the Cartier family, the clan behind the French luxury goods conglomerate known for its jewelry. 

Maximilien de Hoop Cartier was arrested along with five Colombian nationals. The group has been charged in a complex case involving drug trafficking and an intricate money laundering scheme that utilized crypto. 

The Cartier Crypto Connection

On Thursday, May 2, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York revealed a major crypto money laundering conspiracy tied to drug trafficking. According to the authorities, Maximilien de Hoop Cartier and his associates engaged in a multi-million dollar scheme, laundering money derived from narcotics through the use of cryptocurrencies. 


The operation, active from May 2023 to November 2023, involved laundering approximately $14.5 million in drug proceeds. The funds were initially converted into the stablecoin Tether, facilitating the obscure transfer of value across borders. 

According to authorities, Cartier managed the laundering of these digital assets, converting them into fiat currency using a chain of U.S.-based shell companies. These included Bullpix Solutions LLC and Vintech Capital LLC, among others. Thanks to using crypto transfers, he bypassed conventional banking safeguards. 

Another arrested person allegedly managed the receipt and further distribution of these funds through shell companies in Colombia. Similarly, Colombian nationals Leonardo de Jesus Zuluaga Duque and Erica Milena Lopez Ortiz face charges of conspiring to import more than 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. 

Crypto-Enabled Drug Trafficking Bust

In November 2023, the first phase of the sting targeted the purchase of approximately nine kilograms of cocaine paste. This substance is a semi-refined form of cocaine, which dealers process further into powder cocaine before distribution. U.S. law enforcement, using confidential informants, initiated contact with Erica Milena Lopez Ortiz, who was identified as a key coordinator within the laundering network.


During the delivery, agents arrested the individuals involved as they handed over the cocaine paste. This phase was crucial for collecting evidence on how the network operated, particularly converting drug proceeds into cryptocurrencies.

A larger sting followed, involving a planned purchase of about 100 kilograms of cocaine paste. This operation expanded the scope to include other members of the network, namely Alexander Areiza Ceballos and Adrian Fernando Areiza Ceballos. The deal was set up under surveillance, leading to significant seizures and further arrests.

Due to his role in the operation, Cartier is charged with multiple counts, including money laundering, bank fraud, and operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. The most severe of these charges, bank fraud, could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. 

On the Flipside

  • Despite some criminals using crypto, cash remains the most preferred method for illegal transactions, at least domestically. While crypto leaves a trail on the blockchain, cash is untraceable by nature. 
  • Law enforcement agencies are continuously improving their capabilities to track and analyze blockchain transactions.

Why This Matters

High-profile cases like this can influence public perception, potentially casting cryptocurrencies in a negative light as tools for criminal activity. This could affect investor confidence and the adoption of digital currencies for legitimate uses.

Read more about crypto use in crime: 
Crypto Crime Jumps to $7B as Cross-Chain Laundering Surges

Read more about Solana’s bid for third spot in crypto: 
Here’s How Solana Can Outpace BNB and USDT: Franklin Templeton

This article is for information purposes only and should not be considered trading or investment advice. Nothing herein shall be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice. Trading forex, cryptocurrencies, and CFDs pose a considerable risk of loss.

David Marsanic

David Marsanic is a journalist for DailyCoin who covers the intersection of crypto, traditional finance, and government. He focuses on institutionalized crypto entities like major cryptocurrency exchanges and Solana, breaking down complex topics into easy-to-understand writing. David's prior experience as a business journalist at various crypto and traditional news sites has enabled him to maintain a critical approach to news while adhering to high journalistic integrity standards.