Club Owners Indicted for Money Laundering

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) - Two brothers and a sister, business owners in Columbus for years, now indicted on federal money laundering charges.

Maria Sarafin, Gerardo Ricci and Jose Ricci, all connected to Ritmo Latino Nightclub in South Columbus, have been subjects of a six-month FBI investigation.

Still, the arrest came as a surprise for them and their families.

"They just heard a knock on the door, and there is the FBI arresting them and searching their house. They didn't even know what they were charged with," said Frank Martin, the lawyer for all three defendants.

According to their indictment, all three have been in contact with undercover cops since October of 2008.

FBI agents allege the three were taking money they believed to be from the illegal sale of cocaine, depositing it into their personal bank account.  Allegedly, they then transferred a portion of that money to another account, which was actually set up by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

This isn't the first time that the Ricci family has been involved in criminal activity.

As the former manager for the Columbus Civic Center, Jose Ricci pled guilty in September of 2007 to stealing money from Aramark, one of the Civic Center's suppliers.

In addition, Diego Ricci, the brother of all three defendants, listed as partial owner of Ritmo Latino Management, is currently serving time in a Texas state prison.

He was convicted and sentenced in 2008 with possession of an illegal substance, with intent to deliver.

It is not known at this time if that drug case has any connection to the current federal case his brothers and sister are facing.

All three pled not guilty to the money laundering charge.

Serafin was let out on bond of her own recognizance, while the Ricci brothers both posted a $10,000 bond.