US seeks $2.5 million in lawyer's laundering case

EL PASO, Texas

An indictment filed Wednesday in Texas alleges that El Paso lawyer and philanthropist Marco Delgado defrauded millions from a firm doing business with a Mexican utility and used that money to underwrite a lavish lifestyle that included a $250,000 contribution to Carnegie Mellon University.

Delgado could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Authorities also have requested forfeiture of $2.5 million in cash, a house and furniture in El Paso and a New Mexico apartment, as well as two vehicles.

Delgado is charged with 15 money laundering and two wire fraud counts. The indictment returned in El Paso alleges Delgado fraudulently instructed a bank in Mexico to move $32 million dollars from his client's Mexican account to an account he controlled in the Turks and Caicos islands. The indictment says the El Paso lawyer then diverted part of that money to Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

Delgado faces a separate indictment accusing him of conspiring to launder more than $600 million for a Mexican drug cartel. He was arrested in November and charged with conspiring to launder drug profits from July 2007 through December 2008.

Delgado obtained a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon in 1990 and in 2003 and donated $250,000 to create a scholarship named after him to help Hispanic students. He was also a member of several charities and a regular contributor to the El Paso symphony orchestra.

The investigation into Delgado started in September 2007 after a $1 million seizure was made in Atlanta. The man carrying the money told investigators that he, Delgado and other men had met in Mexico and agreed to transport money for the Milenio Cartel, a drug-trafficking organization based in the Mexican state of Colima.

According to U.S. authorities, Delgado admitted to U.S. agents that he had been contacted by people in Mexico about slowing down extradition processes of alleged cartel members and about moving up to $600 million from the U.S. to Mexico. He told the agents the million dollars seized was "a trial run" to see if it was possible, according to the U.S. government.

Calls to his attorney went unreturned Thursday. Delgado has maintained his innocence.

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