Mexico Extradites Ex-Gov. on Drug Charges

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Mexico extradited a former state governor charged with helping the Juarez cartel smuggle 200 tons of Colombian cocaine to the United States. Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid has been jailed in Mexico since 2001 after spending 2 years on the run.

     Mexico handed over Villanueva, former governor of the Territory of Quintana Roo, to U.S. authorities on Saturday, according to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office.
     Villanueva “gave orders to allow shipments of cocaine to be unloaded and stored in ranches in Quintana Roo, to be later sent to the neighboring country by land or air,” Mexican authorities said.
      Villanueva received nearly $19 million from the cartel in exchange for the protection he provided the drug ring, according to a second indictment. He is charged with laundering that money through Lehman Brothers in New York and other brokerage accounts in the United States, Switzerland, Bahamas, Panama and Mexico.
     Consuelo Marquez, a Lehman investment manager who helped funnel Villanueva’s drug money, was convicted in 2004 of fraud, and she pleaded guilty the following year later to money laundering charges.

     Villanueva disappeared in March 1999 and went into hiding days before his immunity as governor expired, according to his indictment.
     After Mexican authorities picked him up in Cancun, he spent six years in prison on money laundering charges. He was re-arrested for extradition to the United States immediately after his release in 2007.
     According to the indictment, Villanueva helped smuggle 200 tons of cocaine into the United States from 1994 to 1998 and received $500,000 for every successful shipment.
     Prosecutors say Villanueva sent one 500-kilogram shipment of cocaine on a plane owned by the governor’s office.
     While awaiting extradition, media reports say Villanueva was sentenced to an additional 36 years on drug charges that he evaded in 2001, but the conviction was thrown out on appeal.
     Juárez Cartel kingpin Gilberto Salinas Doria was sentenced last year to 27 years in prison for his role in the drug distribution ring. Authorities also arrested alleged kingpin Alicides Ramon Magana, known as “El Metro,” on drug trafficking charges in Mexico late Sunday night.
     If convicted, Villanueva and Magana face up to life in prison and a $4 million fine on each count of the indictment.

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