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Officials: 3 Undocumented Immigrants Ran Illegal Check-Cashing Scheme That Laundered $100 Million

CINNAMINSON, N.J. (CBS) -- Three undocumented immigrants from Brazil are accused of running an illegal check-cashing scheme that laundered up to $100 million, officials say.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced Monday the arrests of 51-year-old Renato Maia Da Silva of Cinnaminson; 34-year-old Lucas Alves of Cinnaminson; and 33-year-old Wesley Dos Santos of Palmyra, following a nine-month investigation. All three were charged with financial facilitation of criminal activity.

undocumented immigrants
Lucas Alves, left, Renato Da Silva, center, and Wesley Dos Santos, right. (credit: Burlington County Prosecutor's Office)

According to Coffina, Cinnaminson police began an investigation into MAIA Consulting, which Da Silva owned, in November 2016 after authorities suspected an illegal check cashing operation being run out of the business located at 803 South Route 130.

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The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office says that MAIA Consulting was used by multiple construction companies along the East Coast to conceal payments to undocumented workers in the construction industry.

The illegal check-cashing scheme run out of MAIA Consulting laundered up to $100 million, according to officials.

It is suspected that multiple construction companies, general contractors and subcontractors are involved in the scheme and that additional arrests are anticipated.

"This is not a victimless crime," said Coffina. "These illegal financial transactions have increased the costs of construction in our area, deprived multiple government bodies of needed tax revenue, and placed some of our most vulnerable construction workers at peril from injuries that occur on the job."

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Authorities seized nearly $450,000 in cash and deposited funds, nine vehicles, three motorcycles and a collection of 30 high-end watches.

Police took Da Silva into custody at his business, while Dos Santos and Alves were arrested at their residences. Officials say the three men are in the United States illegally from Brazil.

Their cases are being reviewed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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