Mexico's former top drug prosecutor, under house arrest in New Jersey for more than four years, was charged today with laundering $9.9 million in suspected drug payoffs through a Houston bank.
In a 25-count money laundering and conspiracy indictment unsealed today, Mario Ruiz Massieu was charged with using an unidentified intermediary to move the cash from Mexico to a Houston bank between 1993 and 1995, after he opened the account himself with a $40,000 deposit.
On 26 other occasions, the intermediary deposited $9.9 million into the account at a branch of the Chase Bank of Texas, known formerly as the Texas Commerce Bank, the indictment alleged.
U.S. authorities took Ruiz Massieu into custody Thursday night at his Palisades Park, N.J., home. He had been under house arrest since 1995, when he tried to flee to Spain.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Pisano in Newark set bond for Ruiz Massieu at $500,000 and ordered that he be flown to Houston within 10 days. His wife and 10-year-old daughter accompanied him to court.
"I'm disappointed in the government, that they continue to hound this man who has prevailed in so many proceedings," defense attorney Cathy Fleming said.
Fleming said the criminal case is identical to the civil forfeiture case against Ruiz Massieu that was tried in Houston more than three years ago. In that case, a federal jury concluded that more than $9 million seized in the account had been illegally obtained and therefore rightfully seized by U.S. authorities.
Ruiz Massieu has successfully defended himself against four U.S. attempts to extradite him and one attempt to deport him. The Mexican government has accused Ruiz Massieu of obstructing the investigation into the 1994 assassination of his brother, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, the No. 2 official of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party.