|Hernández Flores with EPN|
By Jason Buch
The Drug Enforcement Administration says Eugenio Hernández Flores, former governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, took bribes from the Zetas drug cartel during his time in office and laundered money in South Texas.
The allegations against Hernández, who was governor from 2005 to 2010, surfaced in a transcript of the Dec. 5 plea hearing of Mexican businessman Guillermo Flores Cordero [below left] in Corpus Christi.
During the hearing, prosecutors said Flores, who was pleading guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy, had run an unlicensed money transmitting business.
He used shell companies to wire money from Mexico to bank accounts in the Rio Grande Valley on behalf of others to disguise where the funds were coming from, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Hampton said.
Among Flores' clients, according to the transcript, were Hernández and members of his family.
Also, Hernández had good reason to disguise the source of the money, prosecutors contended.
“Eugenio Hernández has been identified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as receiving bribes from the Los Zetas drug cartel, a transnational criminal organization, in order for the cartel to have the unfettered ability to operate in Tamaulipas while Mr. Hernández was governor,” Hampton said in the hearing.
“One of the vehicles or methods for moving the illegal proceeds gained in Mexico by Mr. Eugenio Hernández and his co-conspirators into the U.S. was an elaborate money laundering scheme,” Hampton said. “This scheme was developed by Guillermo Flores Cordero.”
She said that between 2009 and 2012, Flores used shell companies to wire $30 million into the U.S. for his clients and made $2.5 million in commission.
Federal authorities have seized millions of dollars in Flores' U.S. bank accounts as well as his house in The Dominion on San Antonio's Northwest Side. He's in jail awaiting his sentencing in October.
Hernández did not respond to messages seeking comment about his alleged ties to Flores.
The allegations are just the latest claiming corrupt officials in the violent border state cooperated with drug traffickers.
Two years ago, as rumors swirled that U.S. officials were investigating former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, Mexican officials acknowledged they were investigating Hernández. He has not been charged in either country.
Last year, U.S. prosecutors in Brownsville unsealed an indictment charging Yarrington with racketeering, money laundering and drug trafficking.
In the indictment, prosecutors said that during his term in office from 1999 to 2005 and after, Yarrington used the state police to collect bribes from drug traffickers, took kickbacks for state contracts and negotiated a peace between warring cartels in exchange for a cut of their profits.
He used the dirty money to buy a condo on South Padre Island, an apartment building in Port Isabel, houses in McAllen and Kyle and a 46-acre tract of land on San Antonio's North Side, the indictment alleges.
Yarrington, who remains a fugitive, has said online and through his lawyer that he's innocent. U.S. prosecutors announced in court filings that they will seek his extradition from Mexico.
Tamaulipas remains one of the most dangerous states in Mexico. In the early 2000s the Gulf Cartel, based in the border city of Matamoros, began expanding its influence across the state by using a group of former Mexican special forces deserters known as the Zetas.
By 2010, the Zetas had become their own criminal organization, engaged in drug trafficking and other illegal activities, and split violently from their former masters.
Since then, the state has been wracked by violence driven by fighting between the two organizations and internal conflicts.
That year, gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre Cantú, expected to be a shoo-in to replace Hernández, was assassinated. His brother went on to win the election.
Two months ago, Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong announced the deployment of more troops and additional federal prosecutors to the state's border cities and coastal ports, the latest effort to curb violence.
Those profiting from the state's corruption and drug trafficking are sending the money to the U.S. to invest in real estate, according to a series of recent prosecutions in San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
“South Texas is becoming, just like oil and gas, a big boom area for money laundering, especially in San Antonio and the Valley area of Texas,” said Javier Peña, the former special agent in charge of the DEA in Houston. “Historically, traffickers have always loved to hide there assets in this area, and I'm glad the U.S. government is starting to seize this property that's been gained from illicit trafficking.”
source: SA Express