Former Mexican governor sent to US prison for money laundering

The Pink Palace, state government building in Saltillo, Coahuila state, Mexico

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A former Coahuila, Mexico, governor has been ordered to federal prison for his role in a money laundering scheme that includes offenses against a foreign nation involving bribery of a public official, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Jorge Juan Torres-Lopez, 67, pleaded guilty June 16, 2020.

Today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos handed Torres-Lopez a 36-month sentence. Not a U.S. citizen, he is expected to face removal proceedings following his imprisonment. At a previous hearing, the court heard additional evidence from two witnesses who described their relationship with Torres-Lopez and detailed some of the financial transactions and illegal payments.

Torres-Lopez worked for the Mexican government from 1994 to 2011. His roles included general director of Promotion and Development while secretary of Finance for the state of Coahuila, municipal president of Saltillo as well as interim governor of Coahuila. In approximately December 2005, Hector Javier 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 as secretary of Finance for Coahuila, where he remained until his resignation in August 2011.

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Torres-Lopez admitted that during some of his time in office, he conducted financial transactions in the United States to conceal the bribes he received in return for road-building contracts for the State of Coahuila. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit a piece of property in the United States associated with the payments.

Law enforcement took Torres-Lopez into custody in Mexico Feb. 5, 2019, where he remained until his extradition to the United States Oct. 29, 2019. He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Villarreal-Hernandez, 50, of Saltillo, Coahuilla, Mexico, has also been convicted in the Southern and Western Districts of Texas for money laundering offenses and currently pending sentencing.

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The multi-agency investigation dubbed Operation Politico Junction included Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS – Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

The Prosecutor General of the Republic of Mexico provided significant assistance. The Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division also assisted.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jon Muschenheim and Lance A. Watt prosecuted the case.

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