Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Former Cleveland boxer admits to laundering drug money through real estate, training roosters for cockfights


A former well-known Cleveland boxer pleaded guilty on Wednesday to running a bank-like operation in which he laundered money for drug traffickers and other criminals through buying real estate.

Raul Torres is also accused of participating in cockfights.

Torres boxed in the 1980s and 1990s and was at one point a junior welterweight champion.

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The federal government said he processed more than $1 million as an unlicensed money service, some of which was derived from drug trafficking and other crimes, between 2011 and last year.

The 56-year-old was caught by the FBI discussing buying houses, fixing them and selling them for a profit, all to give criminal proceeds an air of legitimacy and hide where they came from.

Cuyahoga County property records show that Torres owns dozens of properties on Cleveland’s West Side. He told Senior U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent that he makes his money as a landlord.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said Torres trained roosters for cockfights at two locations in Cleveland’s West Side and twice exhibited fighting roosters last year.

The bearded and slightly balding former boxer appeared in a federal courtroom with a dark blue shirt and tan slacks. His wife sat in the viewing gallery.

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He looked at his plea agreement as Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Cronin read it aloud.

Torres spoke softly when he admitted he was guilty of nine charges, including money laundering, operating an unlicensed money transmitting service and animal fighting violations. He affirmed his guilt one by one as Nugent recited them.

He agreed to forfeit about $60,500 seized from bank accounts and to pay a $1,037,086 money judgment. Torres also could face prison time.

His attorney Michael Goldberg declined comment after the hearing.

Cronin said Torres deposited 1,187 checks made out to other people into just one of his bank accounts.

The plea agreement gave several examples of his discussions with people on how he would launder money, including quotes that authorities translated from Spanish.

In March 2016, Torres met with a person and offered to “clean your money” by using his bank account to buy a house for them, the plea agreement stated.

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Torres explained that the person might not resell the house for much more than the purchase price, “but you clean the money that you invested. It takes a couple months, but you clean all your money,” the plea agreement said. He later made the winning bid at a Cuyahoga County sheriff’s auction and bought the house in his name.

The same month, he spoke with another person about the breadth of his money laundering operation and explained that real estate investment and rentals were great ways to hide illicit money and make a profit.

“You do a face life of two or three thousand (on a house), and you could, you could sell it for 15 more, know what I mean?” Torres told the person. “So, what you’d be doing is cleaning your money.”

On July 7 and Aug. 11, 2018, Torres also exhibited fighting roosters in Youngstown, with he and other participants attached knives or other sharp objects to the roosters’ legs. There were dozens of roosters participating in multiple matches, the agreement said.

Torres also controlled homes on Denison Avenue and West 38th Street, both of which were used to train roosters for fights, the plea agreement said.

Nugent will sentence Torres on Oct. 9. He is free on bond.


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