Mexican businessman arrested in Texas accused in drug cartel schemes
February 13th 2012 · 1 Comment
MEXICO CITY — A Mexican businessman is in U.S. custody, accused of money laundering and serving as a liaison between drug cartels and powerful politicians, including a former governor who allegedly received millions of dollars in exchange for protecting the criminals, according to a 14-page court filing in Texas.
Four confidential informants told the Drug Enforcement Administration that Antonio Pena-Arguelles was paid millions by leaders of the Gulf cartel and the Zetas to help influence politicians, including Tomas Yarrington, the former governor of Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas.
Pena-Arguelles was arrested Wednesday in San Antonio, the document says.
Last November, the Zetas allegedly killed Pena-Arguelles’ older brother, Alfonso, after Antonio failed to pay back $5 million that the criminal organization had given him to pay politicians, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio.
The money was meant for “politics,” but the process turned into “lies,” according to document, citing a text message allegedly sent by Zetas leader Miguel Trevino Morales to Pena-Arguelles the day his brother’s body was discovered near a popular monument in Nuevo Laredo.
“There will not be a safe place for you, Mr. Tono, so good luck,” the text allegedly said. “Don’t be an idiot and pay attention to whom you rob.”
A former employee of Pena-Arguelles, listed as one of the informants, allegedly witnessed Pena-Arguelles and Yarrington arguing over money at Pena-Arguelles’ home in San Antonio, one of several properties, along with vehicles, paid for in cash through illicit proceeds, according to the court filing.
Authorities said that they have discovered as much as $10 million in bank accounts linked to Pena-Arguelles in U.S. states, including Texas and California.
Yarrington and two other former governors from Tamaulipas state — Eugenio Hernandez and Manuel Cavazos — are under investigation by Mexico’s attorney general in connection with unspecified federal crimes. The governors, all members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, have since acknowledged that they were subjects of the inquiry. The former governors and the PRI have said that the allegations are politically motivated attacks by the government of President Felipe Calderon to retain power in the July presidential election.
The PRI governed Mexico for 71 years, until 2000, and Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN, stands in the way of the PRI returning to power. The PRI’s presidential candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, is heavily favored in the election, although recent polls have shown him losing some of his luster with voters.
Tamaulipas first exploded in violence in 2003, when the Gulf cartel, then allied with the Zetas, battled rival cartels to take over drug distribution routes through Laredo and onto Interstate 35. The state has since suffered brutal violence that is rarely reported because residents and the local media have been largely silenced by the control that the criminals groups hold over the area.
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