Man Who Deposited Drug Money Sentenced

CLEVELAND (AP) - A man who deposited $301,000 then told bank officials he had no job was sentenced to 33 months in prison for drug and money laundering.

Jesus Rodriguez, 34, opened a bank account in August 1999 at Firstar Bank in suburban Strongsville after he saw a news report that authorities had arrested several members of a Mexican drug cartel.

Rodriguez, a Mexican national who had hauled more than 200 pounds of cocaine from Los Angeles to Cleveland, panicked, fearing he was next.

To hide the drug money from police, he opened a checking account and two safety deposit boxes, prosecutors said.

The bank became suspicious when he said he had no job and called police.

A week later, he withdrew the money from the bank. Soon after he got to his apartment in Strongsville, U.S. Customs agents knocked on the door. "Come on in," he told them. "I knew you guys were following me and would get me."

Agents later found $100,000 more in the apartment. A federal judge last year gave the money, $456,000 in all, to police and federal agencies for future drug investigations.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver gave Rodriguez a break Wednesday in his sentence because he cooperated with authorities involving two dealers.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)