DOJ sends embezzled $26M back to Mexico
Javier Villarreal Hernández built Texas real estate empire from stolen funds
What to do with nearly a quarter of a billion dollars embezzled from the government? Invest it in real estate, of course.
Javier Villarreal Hernández, the former treasurer of Mexico’s Coahuila state, pleaded guilty to stealing money from the state in 2014. Nearly 10 years later, about 10 percent of the $246 million that Villarreal stole is being sent back to his home state to pay off debts, while the rest remains to be recovered, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Villarreal used the illegal funds to build a real estate empire, using shell companies to acquire commercial and residential properties across San Antonio and Cameron County in South Texas.
The U.S. Department of Justice is sending $26 million of the illegally obtained funds back to Coahuila.
Other former employees partook in the embezzlement scheme that put Coahuila, which borders a large portion of West and South Texas, nearly $2 billion in debt.
“This is definitely good news, because it means somebody is doing something,” Rodolfo Walss, a state legislator in Coahuila, told the outlet. “Right here in the state of Coahuila, most of the people think this is an issue that nobody’s taking care of. But apparently somebody is taking care of it, and somebody is getting good news for the people of Coahuila, and we hope this is the beginning of getting justice for us.”
The investigation into Villarreal stemmed from the government project Operation Politico Junction — a multi-agency effort based in Houston and San Antonio targeting officials from four Mexican states.
Over the past 10 years, Operation Politico Junction led to the recovery of $40 million from politicians and business owners from Coahuila, including $30 million Villarreal made through his real estate endeavors, the outlet reported.
Questions have been raised regarding the whereabouts of the remaining $246 million. The U.S. Department of Justice said it will continue “to bend all efforts to locate, forfeit and return” the money, though.
Villarreal’s sentencing is scheduled for October after several delays.