Ex-Mexican Gov. Extradited to U.S. For Taking Bribes From Drug Cartel and Laundering $19 Mil Through Lehman Brothers Accounts

Mexico border map
By Allan Lengel

The ex-Governor from the Mexican state of Quintana Roo was extradited to the U.S. on charges of accepting million of dollars in bribes to help the violent Juarez Cartel dump tons of cocaine into the U.S. , and of laundering $19 million in drug proceeds through Lehman Brothers accounts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

Authorities said Monday that Mexico turned over ex-Gov. Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid to DEA agents and U.S. Marshals deputies. He was flown DEA Air Wing jet to White Plains, N.Y. whee he arrived late Sunday.

Villanueva Madrid’s opportunity to get filthy rich came in 1994, when the notorious Juarez Cartel started operating out of the state of Quintana Roo, of which he was governor. The state includes Cancun, a popular international tourist spot.

Authorities say Juarez Cartel speed boats with armed crews would meet Colombian speedboats off the Atlantic coast of Central America. The Colombian boats normally carried one to three tons of cocaine that were then offloaded unto the Mexican boats, authorities said.

To avoid getting busted, the Juarez Cartel paid Villanueva Madrid $400,000 to $500,000 for each shipment of cocaine it transported through Quintana Roo, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. That went on from 1994 to 1999.

During that time, authorities said the governor made sure police and state government were at “the disposal of the Cartel”. The state and federal police ended up providing armed protection for the Juarez Cartel boat crews when they unloaded cocaine and transported the drugs inside tanker trunks that traveled through the state.

What’s more, the cartel used state government airplane hangars to store cocaine shipments that arrived by plane from Belize. And the government provided the cartel members with state police identification and firearms permits so they could move about “with impunity”, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In 1998, the Mexican government began investigating Villanueva Madrid for narcotics violations. A year later, is term as governor expired and thus, he no longer had immunity from prosecution under the Mexican constitution, federal authorities said.

In 2001, Vellanueva Madrid, who had grown long hair and a beard, and was in hiding, was arrest ed in Mexico. He was convicted on organized crime and corruption charges. Authorities say he was serving his sentence when he was extradited on Sunday.

“The seeds of today’s violent turmoil in Mexico was first sewn over a decade ago by alleged criminals like Mario Villanueva Madrid,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York. “The indictment charges that Villanueva Madrid turned the Mexican state of Quintana Roo into a virtual narco-state, selling its infrastructure and even its police to one of the world’s most dangerous Mafia enterprises.”

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