Former Mexican governor extradited on money laundering charges
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A former Coahuila, Mexico, governor is set to appear in federal court to face charges for his role in a money laundering scheme to enrich himself and others through bribery, misappropriation and theft of public funds, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Jorge Juan Torres-Lopez, 65, Feb. 8, 2017. He has been in custody in Mexico since Feb. 5, 2019. Today, he was returned to the United States and is set for his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington in Corpus Christi tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Torres-Lopez is charged in the money laundering scheme that includes offenses against a foreign nation involving bribery of a public official and misappropriation, theft and embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of a public official. He is also charged with bank fraud and wire fraud.
The case is related to previous civil litigation in which authorities seized two foreign bank accounts located in Bermuda. Torres-Lopez and Hector Javier Villarreal-Hernandez, his secretary of finance, allegedly opened the accounts in order to secrete stolen monies.
Sun Secured Advantage and N.T. Butterfield and Son Limited held the accounts which had more than $2 million each. As its basis for forfeiture, the government contended the funds were involved in a money laundering transaction, the property constituted or was derived from proceeds traceable to offenses including bribery of a public official or the misappropriation, theft or embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of a public official.
Torres-Lopez and Villarreal-Hernandez were the account holders and allegedly transferred stolen Coahuila finances from Mexico into an account in Brownsville. They later transferred the money to the Bermuda accounts, according to court documents. Villarreal-Hernandez, 48, of Saltillo, Coahuilla, Mexico, has been convicted in the Southern and Western Districts of Texas for money laundering offenses and is awaiting sentencing.
The charges allege the Mexican government employed Torres-Lopez from 1994 to 2011. His roles allegedly included work as the general director of Promotion and Development as secretary of Finance for the state of Coahuila, municipal president of Saltillo and interim governor of Coahuila. In approximately December 2005, Villarreal-Hernandez was appointed as undersecretary of Program and Budget for the state of Coahuila. At the time, Torres-Lopez was his supervisor. In July 2008, Villarreal-Hernandez was appointed to the position of secretary of Finance for Coahuila, where he remained until his resignation in August 2011, according to court documents.
During his time in office, Mexican authorities reportedly began investigating Villarreal-Hernandez. While this commenced, U.S. officials uncovered evidence that in 2008 both Torres-Lopez and Villarreal-Hernandez allegedly opened accounts at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in Brownsville. The charges allege they used these accounts to move monies to offshore accounts in Bermuda. The two used stolen funds from the Mexican federal government and the state of Coahuila.
If convicted of money laundering, Torres-Lopez faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $500,000 fine, twice the value of the monetary instrument or funds involved in the transaction or both. Bank fraud and wire fraud carry 30 and 20-year-terms of imprisonment, respectively, as well as up to $1 million and $250,000 in potential fines.
Multiple agencies are conducting the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Politico Junction” to include Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS - Criminal Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. As part of the investigation, the United States sought the assistance of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Mexico via the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in effect between the United States and Mexico. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie K. Hampton, Jon Muschenheim and Lance A. Watt are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.