A prominent Texan lawyer and philanthropist has been convicted of conspiring to launder hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money for a Mexican cartel, in a case raising the question what role US white collar criminals play in laundering drug profits.
El Paso trade attorney Marco Antonio Delgado faces up to 20 years in jail for facilitating the laundering of up to $600 million between 2007 and 2008 for the Milenio Cartel, reported the Associated Press.
Delgado had worked as an informant for US law enforcement after he was arrested in 2007 with $1 million that he confessed was part of a "trial run" for a money laundering operation. But while working with law enforcement he continued laundering money in secret, said prosecutors, who played the court recorded phone calls between Delgado and alleged criminal associates.
Delgado, a former Carnegie Mellon University trustee and donor to the El Paso Symphony Orchestra, claimed he did not know the money he was moving was related to crime, and said law enforcement agents had lied and misrepresented facts in their testimony.
The Milenio Cartel is a regional "second tier" organization operating in Jalisco state.
InSight Crime Analysis
Tens of billions of dollars of drug money are generated in the United States every year, revenue predominantly received in cash, creating the permanent massive logistical challenge of how to process those funds. The majority of that money ultimately ends up back in Mexico.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering
Although various Mexicans have been convicted of money laundering by US courts, prosecutions of US citizens laundering money directly on behalf of Mexican groups are very rare, with Delgado's one of the most high-profile cases ever brought. This is somewhat surprising, given the number of methods and people that must be employed to move such colossal amounts of money. Lawyers who deal in finance and trade, such as Delgado, are clearly well-placed to facilitate the crime, and it is hard to imagine his is an isolated case.
According to financial crime consultant Ken Rijock, who laundered more than $200 million for Colombian criminals while working as a lawyer in Miami during the 1980s, money laundering was rife in the legal profession during that time period, when an estimated 70 percent of drugs imported to the United States moved through the region.