By Diego Oré
A Mexican mother walked into a bank in her home city of Culiacán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, where an $8,000 remittance from the United States was waiting. She withdrew the funds in local currency, then strolled across town and deposited nearly all of it into accounts at two different banks.
Money sent home by migrant workers is a lifeline for millions of Mexicans. But the woman had never met the person who wired her the funds, nor the owners of the accounts where she took the cash. What she did know: The deal had been carefully arranged by the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s largest drug trafficking groups, to repatriate profits from U.S. drug sales back to Mexico disguised as a routine remittance.