Texas lawyer pleads not guilty to aiding cartel

Associated Press Modified: November 9, 2012 at 2:18 am •  Published: November 9, 2012
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EL PASO, Texas (AP) — In public, Marco Antonio Delgado was a philanthropist, a prominent El Paso businessman and a trustee at Carnegie Mellon University. But secretly, investigators say, he was trying to launder more than half a billion dollars for a Mexican drug cartel.

Delgado pleaded not guilty Thursday in El Paso to federal charges that accuse him of conspiring to launder $600 million of a cartel's drug profits from July 2007 through December 2008. Homeland Security Investigations said he was linked to a cartel based in Guadalajara, Mexico.

If convicted, the married father faces up to 20 years in prison.

A recently unsealed indictment doesn't provide details on how Delgado planned to carry out the scheme, though details could be revealed during a bond hearing Wednesday, when prosecutors try to convince a judge to keep Delgado in jail.

His wife and son declined comment after Thursday's hearing, as did his attorneys. Delgado was arrested last week.

Records show that Delgado was an active philanthropist in the El Paso area, donating to the Symphony Orchestra, and was a member of the boards of educational charities.

Delgado also gave Carnegie Mellon, his alma mater, $250,000 to establish a fellowship in 2003. He later became a trustee of the prestigious university in Pittsburgh, a post that allowed him to rub elbows with top executives of large companies such as GM, USB Wealth Management and Oracle.

University spokesman Ken Walters confirmed that Delgado was a trustee from 2006 through mid-2012, saying: "I wish it was someone else."

By his own account, Delgado even dabbled in Mexican politics. A biography recently pulled from the university's website said Delgado took leave from his professional activities to join Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto's campaign in early 2012, and that he was currently part of his transition team.

Eduardo Sanchez, a spokesman for the transition team, said they had never heard of Delgado and pointed to the group's website, which doesn't list Delgado as a member. Such teams are tasked by the president-elect to meet with current officials and gather information to assure a smooth transition between administrations.