The first of eight local properties the feds say were bought with public money laundered from the Mexican borders state of Coahuila was sold for nearly $7 million Thursday.
The San Antonio Express-News reports
that the highest bidder, who paid $6.75 million for the North Pointe Shopping Center at Redland Road and U.S. 281, declined to be named or say what he'll do with the property. According the newspaper, the shopping center that contains business like Smokers Galaxy and The Angry Elephant bar was valued at $8.6 million. All of the properties the U.S. seized are valued at $36 million and will be auctioned off through the rest of this year, according to the daily.
The feds claim the property was bought with dirty money by Héctor Javier Villarreal, Coahuila’s former treasurer, who has pleaded guilty to his role in a massive money laundering conspiracy. According to the United States Attorneys Office
, Villarreal used public funds he stole to buy properties in San Antonio, Brownsville and on South Padre Island. He was indicted on charges in February 2014 and pleaded guilty in September of that same year. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October. The Express-News writes that
, "as part of a deal he cut behind closed doors," Villarreal forfeited $10 million and handed over the properties. The feds let his mom keep a house and gas station she owns in the Valley.
The properties are part of a years-long sweeping investigation by U.S. authorities into Coahuila's top officials. Federal prosecutors in Texas have alleged that millions of dollars of public money was stolen while former Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira was in power. The feds say officials used state credit to take out loans and award government contracts in exchange for kickbacks. One thing sure to make matters uncomfortable between the two counties is the fact that Mexican officials deny the accusations and Moreira's brother, Ruben, is now the state's current governor.
During the July trial in San Antonio of former Zetas hitman
Marciano Millan Vasquez, a former cartel frontman turned confidential informant named Rodrigo Humberto Uribe Tapia testified that the cartel killed with impunity, laundered money and smuggled drugs because of bribes paid to state officials in Coahuila. He even testified that he personally delivered $2 million in bribes to one of Humberto Moreira's aids, which was used to dodge criminal charges, but also gave them access to state vehicles and helicopters, which helped them to operate under the Mexican military's radar. Millan Vasquez was found guilty
and faces life in prison.