Texas attorney guilty in cartel laundering case
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Texas lawyer and former Carnegie Mellon University trustee was found guilty Monday of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money for a Mexican cartel.
Marco Antonio Delgado was accused of devising a scheme to launder up to $600 million for the now-disbanded Milenio cartel from 2007 to 2008.
Delgado faces up to 20 years in prison on the single count and is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24. Defense attorney Richard Esper said they plan to appeal.
Prosecutor Anna Arreola said Monday morning during closing arguments that Delgado had to know he was meeting with affiliates of a Mexican drug cartel when they allegedly asked his help with moving money and trying to slow down extraditions of suspects from Mexico to the United States.
“What (kind) of people have $600 million to move and want to slow down extraditions?” Arreola asked. “Drug dealers. You know.”
She accused Delgado of contradicting himself on the stand and trying to claim he thought the money was an inheritance or from legitimate business interests.
“It’s not enough to turn a blind eye, to bury your head in the sand,” Arreola said.
But Ray Velarde, Delgado’s attorney, questioned the credibility of a key prosecution witness and the testimony of agents who said they heard Delgado confess and talk about his dealings with drug cartels. Velarde asked why certain conversations detailed by agents weren’t recorded.
“If that were the case, you would have heard that,” Velarde said.
Last week, prosecutors presented recorded phone calls from Delgado to other members of the conspiracy and testimony by federal agents and Victor Pimentel, a former associate of Delgado’s.
Delgado took the stand Thursday and told jurors that federal agents lied and misrepresented facts or oversimplified matters in his case.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have previously testified that after Delgado was arrested in 2007 with $1 million, he confessed and agreed to cooperate. After his initial arrest, court records show, he confessed the money was part of a “trial run” in what agents say was a money-laundering operation.
But agents said Delgado continued moving drug money behind his handlers’ backs, including picking up $50,000 in Chicago in the summer of 2008.
Delgado testified he didn’t know that any of the money was connected to drug trafficking and didn’t learn about its true origin until he was re-arrested in 2012.
“I never discussed a $600 million amount with any ICE agent,” he told prosecutors Thursday.
At the time of his arrest, Delgado had given a $250,000 endowment for a scholarship named after him to assist Hispanic students, the Carnegie Mellon University website said. He also was a regular contributor to the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and a member of a local educational foundation.
Delgado’s defense team has claimed that associates of Lilian De La Concha, the ex-wife of Mexico’s former president Vicente Fox Quesada, had asked him to help move the funds associated with an inheritance and the construction companies.
The prosecution presented emails and recorded phone calls between Delgado and De La Concha, in which she agreed to relay messages between Delgado and a man known as Chuy, who federal agents say was the contact for the drug trafficking organization.
While the scheme was in play, De La Concha and Delgado were romantically involved, witnesses have testified. De La Concha was divorced by then, and Fox had already left office.
Delgado is scheduled to face another trial for money laundering and wire fraud in November. According to the multi-count indictment, Delgado defrauded an energy company that built a power plant in Mexico and, through a series transactions moved funds allegedly obtained by misrepresentation from Mexico to the Turks and Caicos to the U.S.