The United States Attorney of New York has announced that Mario Ernesto Villanueva Madrid, the former governor of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder millions of dollars in narcotics bribe payments that he received from the Juarez Cartel – one of Mexico’s most notorious and violent cocaine cartels – through accounts at banks in the U.S. and other countries.
According to court documents, Madrid, 64, was elected Governor of Quintana Roo in April 1993. In 1994, he entered into an agreement with the Juarez Cartel that would ensure its cocaine shipments traveled safely through Quintana Roo without interference from law enforcement. In the mid-to late-1990s, the Juarez Cartel transported over 200 tons of cocaine into the United States across the Southwest U.S. border. In 1994, the Cartel established operations in the eastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Under the agreement, Madrid received payments of between $400,000 and $500,000 for each shipment of cocaine that the Cartel transported through his state.
By late 1995, Madrid began transferring the money to bank and brokerage accounts in the United States, Switzerland, the Bahamas, Panama and Mexico. Many of the accounts were held in the names of British Virgin Islands shell corporations. In March 1999, after his term as Governor expired and while he was under investigation by Mexican authorities, Madrid fled and remained a fugitive for over two years. Madrid was convicted in Mexico on organized crime and corruption offenses. All of his funds illicit funds - totaling over $19 million - were seized and later forfeited by U.S. authorities.
Madrid faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.