EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Texas lawyer and former Carnegie Mellon University trustee pleaded not guilty Thursday to laundering more than $600 million for a Mexican drug cartel.
Marco Antonio Delgado waived his arraignment Thursday, essentially entering a not guilty plea, during a hearing in federal court in El Paso. One of his lawyers, Ray Velarde, asked Judge Norbert Garney to postpone the bond hearing for Wednesday. His other lawyer, Jose Montes, said they would seek Delgado’s release on bond next week.
Prosecutors say Delgado conspired to launder the cartel’s drug profits from July 2007 through December 2008. The indictment doesn’t say which cartel.
In a statement, Homeland Security Investigations said Delgado conspired to launder more than $600 million of drug profits. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
The agency said he was linked to the Milenio cartel based in Guadalajara, Mexico. The cocaine-trafficking cartel was active until 2010, and its scope was mostly limited to the Jalisco state area in Mexico and parts of the western U.S., according to the Mexican government.
A biography that was recently pulled from the university’s website says Delgado took leave from his professional activities to join Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign in early 2012 and adds that he is currently part of Pena Nieto’s 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.
“Clearly this person is not part of the team. We don’t know him,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez also ruled out the possibility that Delgado could have served as an adviser to Pena Nieto, or worked on or raised funds for his campaign. As to why a former member of the board of trustees provide such information to the university, Sanchez speculated that “criminals normally say things that are not true.”
In Mexico, transition teams are tasked by the president elect to meet with current officials and gather information in order to assure a smooth transition from one administration to the next and to provide the new president with reports so he can make decisions soon after being sworn in.
Delgado received a master’s in Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz School in 1990, and in 2003, he gave the school $250,000 to establish the Marco Delgado Fellowship for the Advancement of Hispanics in Public Policy and Management. In a press release from that time, he credited the school’s “outstanding faculty, strong links to the private sector and overall dedication to producing problem-solvers.”
Ken Walters, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh university, confirmed that Delgado was a trustee from 2006 through mid-2012.
“I wish it was someone else,” he said.
Walters said Delgado provided the biographical information that had been on the school’s website, including his claimed links to Mexico’s president-elect. He declined comment on whether the endowment funding could be linked to drug money or if they have looked into the claims made by Delgado in his biography.
“Right now we have no knowledge of the matter and are reserving comment until the authorities investigate,” Walters said.
Associated Press writers Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh and Adriana Gomez Licon in Mexico City contributed to this report.
Follow Juan Carlos Llorca on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jcllorca .