SAN DIEGO (CN) – A San Diego real estate agent was sentenced Monday to four years in prison for helping a drug dealer buy a $2 million house in the nation’s wealthiest community, federal prosecutors said. Marco Manuel Luis, 32, pleaded guilty to four counts of money laundering, including money derived from illegal activity, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Luis admitted he acted as real estate agent for convicted drug trafficker Joshua Hester, and helped hide Hester’s ownership of a $2 million home in Rancho Santa Fe, prosecutors said. He also pleaded guilty to committing fraud in a deal involving property on Palomar Mountain.
Prosecutors said U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez found that “Marco Manuel Luis clearly knew that the money involved in the conspiracy for both counts, including the down payment and monthly mortgage payments, were drug proceeds, based on his ongoing personal and business relationship with the convicted drug traffickers. [The judge] found that the defendant intentionally hid the true owner of the properties (Joshua Hester) to conceal Hester’s drug proceeds. Judge Gonzalez ordered restitution to the banks that suffered financial harm in excess of $500,000 because the properties were eventually foreclosed.”
Rancho Santa Fe, a large, unincorporated gated community in the hills of North San Diego County, is or has been a home to some of the world’s richest men, including Bill Gates and the Sultan of Brunei.