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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Former Governor of Coahuila Sentenced to 3 Years in US Prison for Money Laundering

"MX" for Borderland Beat

Jorge Juan Torres López
Juan Jorge Torres Lopez, a former governor of Coahuila whose short time in office was marred by money laundering allegations, was sentenced to 3 years in a US prison for money laundering charges.

Torres, 66, served for most of 2011 as the interim governor of Coahuila, a state that borders Texas from west of Laredo to the Big Bend.

He is closely associated with Coahuila's nearly $2 billion debt, dubbed the megadeuda (mega debt) in the Mexican press.

He's one of several officials and businessmen from the state accused by U.S. authorities of laundering through Texas banks and San Antonio real estate transactions tens of millions of dollars embezzled from the state or collected as bribes.

Torres pleaded guilty to money laundering last June. His sentencing was scheduled for 23 June 2021.

Background
Former Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira appointed Torres as the state’s secretary of treasury when he took office in 2005. Torres served for two years, leaving in 2007 when he was elected mayor of Saltillo, the state capital.

When Moreira left the governorship with nearly a year remaining in his term to lead Mexico’s longtime ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Torres was appointed to replace him.

Humberto Moreira, former Governor of Coahuila prior to Torres
Torres was governor when in March 2011 members of the Zetas drug cartel launched a bloody cleansing in and around Piedras Negras, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass. Known as the Allende Massacre after one of the towns where much of the killing took place, the days-long pogrom is believed to have left hundreds dead.

In a series of trials in Texas federal courtrooms, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informants testified that details of their cooperation was leaked to the Zetas leaders. In response, gang members rounded up and executed anyone they could find with a connection to the traitors. One Zetas operative testified in 2016 that payments to top Coahuila officials, including Moreira, gave the traffickers free reign in the state.

Torres was not named as a recipient of those bribes. Moreira, who wouldn’t comment for this story and wasn’t charged in the U.S., has in the past denied taking money from the Zetas, whom he blames for the murder of his son in 2012.

Solis, Torres’ lawyer, said he “has never been connected or associated with drug trafficking organizations in any capacity, any suggestion or insinuation to such is utterly inaccurate.”

News of Coahuila’s massive debt broke before Torres left office in December 2011. Héctor Javier Villarreal-Hernandez, his successor as state treasurer, stepped down and later faced criminal charges amid an investigation into allegations he had taken out loans using the state’s credit without legislative approval.

Héctor Javier Villarreal-Hernandez, former state treasurer of Coahiila; he is also in U.S. custody

Meanwhile, U.S. investigators were looking into allegations Moreira and other government officials had embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars from state coffers and transferred much of it to the U.S.

In 2012, Bexar County and federal prosecutors seized homes and commercial properties Villarreal’s family members owned in San Antonio and in the Rio Grande Valley worth nearly $40 million.

In April 2013, Torres agreed to turn $200,000 over to Hidalgo County prosecutors to settle a civil lawsuit against a bank account he and his wife had at Inter National Bank in McAllen. Five months later, federal prosecutors in Corpus Christi seized a $2.76 million account Torres held in a Bermuda bank.

In a lawsuit to forfeit the property, they alleged Torres and Villarreal in 2008 met with J.P. Morgan Chase bankers in McAllen to establish bank accounts, but lied about where their money came from. Those accounts were used to transfer money from Mexico to the U.S., then offshore banks, according to the lawsuit. In November 2013, the Corpus Christi prosecutors indicted Villarreal and Torres on money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud charges.

Villearreal later turned himself in to U.S. authorities at an international bridge in El Paso and pleaded guilty to the Corpus Christi charges as well as additional charges in San Antonio. He’s free on bond and is awaiting sentencing before a judge in San Antonio.

Mexican officials arrested Torres last year in the Pacific Coast city of Puerto Vallarta, and in October he agreed to be extradited to the U.S. to face charges here.

Little information was released during Wednesday’s hearing, a change from past guilty pleas in prosecutors’ investigation of Coahuila bribery and money laundering. In a 2015 plea agreement for a media mogul with properties on both sides of the border, prosecutors identified Moreira as Co-Conspirator 1.

In that document filed in a San Antonio federal court, they alleged he stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the state of Coahuila, some of which he used to purchase radio and television stations in Mexico. In 2009, Moreira, Villarreal and the businessman met at the Club at Sonterra to discuss the sale of media holdings in Mexico for nearly $2 million, according to the plea agreement.

Luis Carlos Castillo Cervantes, who admitted to pay bribes to Moreira

In 2017, Luis Carlos Castillo Cervantes, a Mexican construction magnate and a former shareholder in Inter National Bank, admitted in a Corpus Christi federal court to paying bribes to Moreira in exchange for paving contracts.

During that hearing, and the 2013 guilty plea of one of Castillo’s business associates, prosecutors read lengthy statements outlying the men’s crimes and naming former Mexican officials whom they allegedly bribed and helped launder money.

During the 2017 plea, prosecutors alleged that, at the behest of a business associate, he wired money to a title company to pay for a house Moreira’s mother-in-law owned in San Antonio’s Greystone Country Estates subdivision. U.S. authorities seized the home.

Prosecutors also alleged during Castillo’s plea hearing that Coahuila officials, including Torres, inflated road paving contracts in exchange for $6.8 million in kickbacks. Castillo helped Torres set up an account at Inter National bank, then gave him more than $700,000 to purchase real estate in Montgomery County, near Houston, prosecutors alleged. Torres laundered more than $2 million through the account, according to prosecutors.

Sources: USDOJ; MySA; Borderland Beat archives

14 comments:

  1. The real capos of Mexico 🇲🇽 pulling all the strings. Think about it! Politicians have the greatest leverage in this business! Feasibility at its finest.

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  2. What a shame on U.S courts 3yrs for doing more harm to the Mexican people then any narco

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    Replies
    1. This is bad but I can think of way worse things like that Z slaughter those 300 people across from eagle pass

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    2. A narco is know to do bad things..but the trust a government official breaks is slimy

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    3. Who the fuck trusts a Mexican politician bahahaha. He stole money but it's not like he is cutting heads off

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    4. The banks involved just showed papers to sign and paid commissions and kickbacks to the moreiros and their brothers un crime...the cuaguileños just got saddled with the debt thanks to the state legislators kissing ruben moreira's ass with laws that accept the debt on behalf of the citizens that have nothing to show for it.

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  3. With time served, he will be out in no time. Didn’t BB share a story that the US only took a house he had in San Antonio ? I bet he has way more money hidden. Fuck this guy and those he represents.

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  4. Slap on the WRIST and a pat on the BACK, THAT'S the treatment those CROOKED governors GET from U.S judges and prosecutors..
    What a SHAME, but then AGAIN the GOVERNMENT are UNTOUCHABLE

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  5. US banks were defrauded, and should eat their loses for having secret deals with mexican political crooks that stole all the loans leaving the people on their state to have to accept their legislature makes it legal for them to own a state debt for which they got nothing but BS.
    Mexican governors should not be contracting billion dollar loans at all with anybody, the federal government covers their expenses in full every year...

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    Replies
    1. 3:52 the banks lost nothing, people of Coahuila will pay for a hundred years, the US government is just going for their share of the shit pie, a very thin slice.

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  6. Amlo says he is honest, wish the other politicians were

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  7. He's going to have a fun time with the homies in prison. He looks like he knows how to make friends and provide satisfaction.

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