By Juan Montoya
A former Mexican state of Coahuila businessman to be sentenced in October admitted to prosecutors that he laundered money for various clients in Mexico, including the former Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez Flores who allegedly took bribes from the Zetas to allow them to operate in his state.
Guillermo Flores Cordero will be sentenced in Corpus Christi where he pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy.
Charges against his wife, Maria de Guadalupe Galán Villalobos, 49, were dropped after she gave up any claim she might have to $3.9 million federal prosecutors found in a McAllen bank account linked to the couple.
During the plea hearing, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration said Flores Cordero said that Hernández Flores, the former governor 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, came to light in an unsealed transcript of the Dec. 5 plea hearing of the Coahuila businessman. According to prosecutors, Hernandez Cordero 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.
“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.”
The DEA indictment asserted 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.
Last year, U.S. prosecutors in Brownsville unsealed an indictment charging former Tamaulipas Gov. Tomás Yarrington Ruvalcaba with racketeering, money laundering and drug trafficking. Prosecutors charged 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.
News reports indicate that Yarrington made several purchases in real estate through intermediaries (prestanombres) that included 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.
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.
A former special agent in charge of the DEA in Houston commented to reporters from the San Antonio Express News and the Laredo Times that:
“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. “Historically, traffickers have always loved to hide theire 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."