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Nightclub owner sentenced to prison for laundering money in cross-border drug trade

Nightclub owner sentenced to prison for laundering money in cross-border drug trade
Dancers at El Rodeo nightclub in Pico Rivera move to the sounds of the music. The club's owner was sentenced to prison for laundering money as part of a drug-trafficking ring. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A Pico Rivera nightclub owner was sentenced to prison Thursday for laundering money in a drug-trafficking ring operating in the United States and Mexico, authorities said.

Edgar Fragoso, the owner and general manager of El Rodeo nightclub, had admitted to laundering about $235,000 in cash through his Washington Boulevard nightclub, according to court papers.

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As part of a plea deal that called for all but one money laundering charge against him to be dismissed, Fragoso agreed to surrender his liquor license.

In a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Thursday, U.S. District Judge George Wu imposed a two-year split-sentence of prison and home detention, according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

Fragoso was also ordered to pay a $14,000 fine and complete a three-year term of supervised release. He has been out of custody since posting $100,000 bail.

His defense attorney could not be reached for comment.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided his nightclub and Hacienda Heights home in 2015 following an undercover investigation into Fragoso's links to the illegal drug trade.

The nightclub served as a drop-off point where undercover operatives for the DEA would fork over as much as $150,000 in cash at a time, according to a 52-page sworn affidavit by federal investigators filed on Feb. 20, 2015.

As undercover operatives recorded his words, Fragoso openly discussed the various methods he could employ to launder the illicit funds, according to the affidavit.

The investigation into El Rodeo was triggered by the 2012 arrest of two people who were trafficking methamphetamine in Texas, according to the affidavit.

The pair, whose names were not released, told investigators that the alleged leader of a Mexico-based drug-trafficking organization used Fragoso to clean up the proceeds from the sale of methamphetamine, the affidavit said.

Fragoso's Pico Rivera nightclub had gained a reputation for violence. A valet was killed in 2013, and a decade before, a shooting there left one person dead and two others injured.

Twitter: @MattHjourno.

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