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$150,000 in plastic bag. $200,000 in house, car. Woman charged with laundering drug proceeds.

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At border towns, cartel drug smugglers are only limited by their imagination, often hiding drugs in secret compartments within vehicles.
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At border towns, cartel drug smugglers are only limited by their imagination, often hiding drugs in secret compartments within vehicles.

The search of a Lexington home this week led to the discovery of $200,000 in alleged drug proceeds, and has led to a federal charge against the wife of a convicted drug trafficker.

Nancy Zapata Garcia, 37, is charged with conspiring with others to commit money laundering, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Lexington. She made an initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon; her court-appointed attorney, Jeffrey Rager, had no comment on the charge.

Garcia admitted to Lexington police and federal agents that $200,000 found Tuesday at her Dartmoor Drive house was the proceeds of drug trafficking, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent’s affidavit filed in the court record.

About $40,000 of that $200,000 was found beneath the spare tire in the trunk of a 2013 Kia, the affidavit said. The rest of the money was found in various spots in the house, including suit cases, bags and other items.

Zapata “denied that she personally distributed controlled substances, but admitted that she obtained drug proceeds from others and provided it to couriers for transport elsewhere,” the affidavit said.

Confidential informants had told Lexington police detective Matthew Evans about drug trafficking and money-laundering activities since another search of the Dartmoor house in July 2017, when Garcia’s husband, Fernando Lara Salas, was arrested. Garcia was present during the 2017 search but was not arrested or charged.

Since that 2017 search, tips from the confidential sources led to the arrests and seizures of hundreds of pounds of marijuana, more than 100 kilograms of cocaine, and the seizure of more than $1 million in drug proceeds, the affidavit said.

Based on the information from those sources, Evans began conducting surveillance of Nancy Zapata Garcia. On Nov. 27, a white Toyota Camry with a New York license plate pulled into the Garcia home’s driveway.

Evans saw Garcia carry a large black plastic bag to the driver, Zhang Fengquiang, and they put the bag into the back seat of the Camry.

Fengquiang drove away from the house but then pulled to the side of the road on Harrogate Road in Lexington, got out and then went to the back seat. Evans approached the car and identified himself as a police officer. Fengquiang consented to a search of the car.

The black plastic bag contained $150,030. Fengquiang “admitted the money was drug proceeds and that he was to deliver it to an address in New York City,” the affidavit said. It does not appear Fengquiang was charged and no one by that name could be found as an inmate in jails that typically house federal prisoners awaiting initial appearances or arraignments.

That later November search led to Evans obtaining the warrant for the Tuesday search of the Garcia house at Dartmoor Drive.

Salas, 40, Nancy Zapata Garcia’s husband, was sentenced in June to 29 years in prison on various offenses, including drug trafficking. He was also convicted of unlawfully re-entering the United States after previously being deported for a felony drug offense.