CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A former Coahuila, Mexico,
governor is set to appear in federal court to face charges for his role in a
money laundering scheme to enrich himself and others through bribery,
misappropriation and theft of public funds, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K.
A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment
against Jorge Juan Torres-Lopez, 65, Feb. 8, 2017. He has been in custody in
Mexico since Feb. 5, 2019. Today, he was returned to the United States and is
set for his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington
in Corpus Christi tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Torres-Lopez is charged in the money laundering scheme
that includes offenses against a foreign nation involving bribery of a public
official and misappropriation, theft and embezzlement of public funds by or for
the benefit of a public official. He is also charged with bank fraud and wire
The case is related to previous civil litigation in which
authorities seized two foreign bank accounts located in Bermuda. Torres-Lopez
and Hector Javier Villarreal-Hernandez, his secretary of finance, allegedly
opened the accounts in order to secrete stolen monies.
Sun Secured Advantage and N.T. Butterfield and Son
Limited held the accounts which had more than $2 million each. As its basis for
forfeiture, the government contended the funds were involved in a money
laundering transaction, the property constituted or was derived from proceeds
traceable to offenses including bribery of a public official or the misappropriation,
theft or embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of a public
Torres-Lopez and Villarreal-Hernandez were the account
holders and allegedly transferred stolen Coahuila finances from Mexico into an
account in Brownsville. They later transferred the money to the Bermuda
accounts, according to court documents. Villarreal-Hernandez, 48, of Saltillo,
Coahuilla, Mexico, has been convicted in the Southern and Western Districts of
Texas for money laundering offenses and is awaiting sentencing.
The charges allege the Mexican government employed
Torres-Lopez from 1994 to 2011. His roles allegedly included work as the
general director of Promotion and Development as secretary of Finance for the
state of Coahuila, municipal president of Saltillo and interim governor of
Coahuila. In approximately December 2005, Villarreal-Hernandez was appointed as
undersecretary of Program and Budget for the state of Coahuila. At the time,
Torres-Lopez was his supervisor. In July 2008, Villarreal-Hernandez was
appointed to the position of secretary of Finance for Coahuila, where he
remained until his resignation in August 2011, according to court
During his time in office, Mexican authorities reportedly
began investigating Villarreal-Hernandez. While this commenced, U.S. officials
uncovered evidence that in 2008 both Torres-Lopez and Villarreal-Hernandez
allegedly opened accounts at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank in Brownsville. The charges
allege they used these accounts to move monies to offshore accounts in Bermuda.
The two used stolen funds from the Mexican federal government and the state of
If convicted of money laundering, Torres-Lopez faces up
to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $500,000 fine, twice the value of the
monetary instrument or funds involved in the transaction or both. Bank fraud
and wire fraud carry 30 and 20-year-terms of imprisonment, respectively, as
well as up to $1 million and $250,000 in potential fines.
Multiple agencies are conducting the Organized Crime Drug
Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Politico Junction” to
include Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS - Criminal Investigation,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, FBI and
U.S. Marshals Service. As part of the investigation, the United States sought
the assistance of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Mexico via the
Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in effect between the United States and Mexico.
The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs also provided
U.S. Attorneys Julie K. Hampton, Jon Muschenheim and Lance A. Watt are
prosecuting the case.