EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A West Texas lawyer charged with trying to launder $600 million for a Mexican drug cartel was an informant for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement while he was moving large amounts of cash behind the agency's back, a federal agent testified Wednesday.
The testimony from agent Joshua Fry with the Homeland Security Investigations' Financial Operations and Currency United Strike Force came at a hearing in which U.S. District Judge Norbert Garney denied Marco Antonio Delgado's request to be released on bond.
"We thought he had gone bad on my agents," Fry said in explaining why ICE started an investigation on Delgado after they learned that he had sent someone to Chicago to retrieve $50,000 and bring it to El Paso. The money eventually made it to Delgado's bank account and was later withdrawn.
In denying bail, Garney noted Delgado has an extensive network of acquaintances overseas, might have assets in other countries and faces a "rather extensive exposure to prison time" if the government manages to obtain a conviction.
Delgado's attorney, Ray Velarde, said he will appeal Garney's decision.
Velarde told the judge that Delgado's relatives were prepared to offer all their property, totaling about $800,000, to secure bond. In addition to being an attorney, Delgado also has served as a Carnegie Mellon University and donated money to numerous causes.
Prosecutors say Delgado conspired to launder drug profits from July 2007 through December 2008. They say he's since participated in financial transactions they believe are connected to organized crime.
The investigation into Delgado started in September 2007 after a $1 million seizure was made in Atlanta. The man carrying the money told investigators that he, Delgado and other men had met in Mexico and agreed to transport money for the Milenio Cartel, a drug-trafficking organization based in the Mexican state of Colima and associated with the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. Mexican government information states the cartel was mostly disbanded in 2010.
According to U.S. authorities, Delgado admitted to ICE agents that he had been contacted by people in Mexico about slowing down extradition processes of alleged cartel members and about moving up to $600 million from the U.S. to Mexico. He told the agents the million dollars seized was "a trial run" to see if it was possible, according to the U.S. government.