- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Two of Mexico's most powerful reputed drug bosses and a former Lehman Brothers account executive were indicted yesterday in a massive drug-smuggling and money-laundering scheme involving the importation of hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States.
Jose Albino Quintero Meraz, 42, and Jorge Manuel Torres Teyer, 40, were named in an indictment handed up in U.S. District Court in New York as leaders of Mexico's "Southeast Cartel," a major drug-smuggling ring operating out of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which borders Belize and Guatemala on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Also indicted was Consuelo Marquez, 39, a former Lehman Brothers account representative in New York, accused of participating in the laundering of millions of dollars of illicit drug profits for the cartel.
The indictments came as the result of an undercover investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, along with the Mexican Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York.
"If you cut off their flow of money, you cut off the traffickers' lifeline," said DEA chief Asa Hutchinson. "The DEA will continue to attack drug cartels where it hurts them the most in their bank accounts."
The indictments are part of a continuing DEA investigation that already has resulted in conspiracy charges filed against two other cartel suspects, Alcides Ramon Magana and Gilberto Salinas Doria, and against Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, the former governor of Quintana Roo.
DEA spokesman Thomas E. Hinojosa said the Southeast Cartel, considered one of Mexico's most violent drug gangs, conspired to import hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States and distribute it in metropolitan areas nationwide.
He said the cocaine was shipped by speedboat from Colombia to various locations in Belize and Quintana Roo, where it then was transported by truck to the United States.
Mr. Villanueva Madrid, the former governor of Quintana Roo, is accused of having received payments for each shipment, approximately $30 million, in exchange for his protection to store and transport the cartel's cocaine shipments.
Mr. Hinojosa said the drug smugglers used state facilities owned by the Office of the Governor.
Mr. Quintero Meraz has been in the custody of Mexican authorities on separate drug charges since May 26. Mr. Torres Teyer was arrested in Belize last year after authorities there found him in possession of 1.5 tons of cocaine bound for the United States.
Formal extradition requests for the two men, along with Mr. Villanueva Madrid, Mr. Ramon Magana and Mr. Salinas Doria, who also are in custody in Mexico, are expected later this month.
Since 1995, Mr. Hinojosa said, Mr. Villanueva Madrid and his son, Luis Ernesto Villanueva Tenorio, who also has been charged, deposited large amounts of drug proceeds into foreign and U.S. bank and brokerage accounts.
He said they then enlisted the assistance of Miss Marquez, the Lehman Brothers executive, to conceal their ownership and avoid the detection of the funds by law enforcement. Miss Marquez used her positions at Serfin Securities, a Mexican investment firm with offices in New York, and later with Lehman Brothers to establish offshore corporations structured to conceal the drug profits and their ownership, he said.
Authorities are seeking seizure and forfeiture of the accounts, estimated to contain $45 million.
"The success of this investigation exhibits the DEA's commitment to the pursuit of facilitators who aid and conspire in an attempt to launder narcotic-trafficking proceeds utilizing U.S. financial institutions," said Felix Jimenez, who heads the DEA's New York field division.

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