2 charged in 'Operation Dirty Money'

Owners of Diaz Supermarkets arrested

Published On: Apr 15 2013 02:59:38 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 16 2013 11:33:13 AM EDT
John Diaz, Mercedes Avila-Diaz
MIAMI -

The Broward Sheriff's Office arrested a couple accused of money laundering and workers' compensation fraud as part of "Operation Dirty Money."

BSO, as part of the operation with the State Office of Insurance Regulation, arrested John Diaz and Mercedes Avila-Diaz Friday.

Diaz, 45, was charged with money laundering, organized scheme to defraud, several money service business violations, and two counts of workers' compensation fraud. Avila-Diaz, 44, was charged with two counts of workers' compensation fraud.

A Workers’ Compensation Fraud Task Force investigation revealed that a total of $35 million in fraudulent transactions occurred at Diaz Supermarkets, a licensed money service business, owned and operated by Diaz since 2006, according to Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. Police seized $640,000 in forfeiture funds and three vehicles at four Diaz Supermarkets locations and one administrative office.

According to the State Office of Insurance Regulation, the case is part of a larger investigation into movement of drug money from Mexico to the U.S.

The investigation also revealed that Diaz and Avila-Diaz jointly owned and operated Diavila Enterprises, Inc., which was advertised as a tax preparation company, since 2003, said Atwater. This company had been operating for nearly 10 years without the required workers’ compensation coverage, a third-degree felony.

Diaz and Avila-Diaz collectively face up to 95 years in prison if convicted on all counts.