By Guillermo Contreras and Jason Buch
Oscar Gomez Guerra, 43, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Corpus Christi on charges of conspiring to launder monetary instruments and aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, Kenneth Magidson, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas, said Friday.
Gomez is married to the sister of former Tamaulipas Gov. Eugenio Hernández Flores, who served from 2005 to 2010. [governor is in photo above and below with EPN]
Gomez, who's currently a fugitive, said in a statement sent to Mexican media that his properties in the U.S. were bought with the proceeds of his Mexican business.
He said U.S. authorities never tried to contact him about his business, “which was conducted legitimately and in conformity with Mexican laws.”
He also added that whatever transactions are in question have nothing to do with the former governor.
Hernández has not been formally charged — though prosecutors have accused him of taking bribes from the Zetas so the cartel could operate freely in Tamaulipas, which borders Texas. Hernández also denies the allegations.
The indictment alleges Gomez conspired to commit international money laundering starting about January 2008 and aided and abetted the operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business run by a Mexican businessman who lived part-time in San Antonio.
The businessman, Guillermo Flores Cordero, is in jail in Corpus Christi and was set to be sentenced there this week, but his hearing was postponed until February.
The federal government also is seeking a personal money judgment from Gomez in the amount of $10 million.
His prosecution is the latest in a series of U.S. money-laundering investigations targeting people close to governors in two states bordering Texas — Coahuila and Tamaulipas.
If convicted of the money-laundering conspiracy, Gomez faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice what was laundered. Operating an unlicensed money transmitting business carries a maximum five years in prison.
The feds also have accused Hernández but haven't charged him — or at least unsealed any formal charges against him like they did in Gomez's case — of money laundering activities.
Allegations against Hernández first surfaced in a transcript of the Dec. 5 plea hearing of Flores, in which he pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy.
During the hearing, prosecutors said Flores, who split his time between his homes in Coahuila and San Antonio, 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.
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.
Hampton 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 and his house in The Dominion in Bexar County.
In a statement circulated to Mexican media in July, Hernandez said he “categorically denies” the allegations.
“It's a totally false declaration,” Hernandez wrote. “I'm clean. I was investigated along with my family exhaustively and with full rigor in Mexico by the past federal administration. ...”
Hernández succeeded then-Tamaulipas Gov. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba, who served from 1999 to
The charges also claim he was laundering bribes in South Texas from the Zetas, and that the Gulf Cartel the Zetas once worked for paid him so they could operate in Tamaulipas.
Both cases are being investigated by multiple agencies, including the DEA, IRS, FBI and Homeland Security Department. None had additional comment beyond a news release issued by Magidson's office.