Ex-Mexican state finance minister appears in San Antonio court
New indictment against ex-state finance minister from Mexico, already in US custody
A new federal indictment against a former Mexican state finance minister, previously indicted on money laundering charges in Texas, was unsealed Thursday in San Antonio.
Hector Javier Villarreal Hernandez, former finance minister in the Mexican state of Coahuila, turned himself in to U.S. authorities in El Paso on Wednesday and made his initial appearance in federal court in San Antonio on Thursday, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
The new indictment unsealed in the Western District of Texas against Villarreal Hernandez is for one count of money laundering conspiracy. An indictment unsealed in November in the Southern District of Texas charged Villarreal Hernandez and Jorge Juan Torres Lopez, the state's former interim governor and finance secretary, with money laundering, bank fraud and wire fraud. U.S. authorities at the time asked for the public's help in locating the men.
Details about how Villarreal Hernandez, 42, turned himself in were not immediately available. It also was not known if he had retained an attorney. After appearing before a judge Thursday afternoon, Villarreal Hernandez remained in federal custody.
The new indictment alleges that from 2008 to earlier this month, Villarreal Hernandez and others laundered drug proceeds through the U.S. to cover up the bribery of public officials and embezzlement of public funds. If convicted, the count carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Last November's indictment in Corpus Christi alleged Villarreal Hernandez and Torres Lopez moved embezzled funds from Mexico into U.S. banks and then offshore. Federal prosecutors said the men sent more than $2 million each to accounts in Bermuda.
In February 2013, federal authorities announced they had seized Villarreal Hernandez's offshore account, which held more than $2.2 million. The civil forfeiture complaint alleged he had transferred money from Coahuila to a bank in Brownsville and then on to Bermuda. He had been appointed secretary of finance in Coahuila in 2008, but previously had worked as a budget undersecretary.
Villarreal Hernandez resigned in 2011 under investigation by Mexican authorities, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's office in February. Later that year, a Mexican judge charged him with forging state documents to obtain loans for more than $200 million. He was arrested, released on bond and fled.
U.S. authorities also believe he purchased a number of properties in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley with the embezzled funds.
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