Two inmates who have testified in the trial of five men accused of money laundering for the vicious Zetas cartel have outstanding warrants for kidnapping and murder charges in Mexico, defense attorneys said Thursday in an Austin federal court.
The attorneys have questioned the credibility of such witnesses who have signed plea agreements with the government in hopes of lesser sentences for cooperating with authorities. They said the allegations in the warrants never came to light in their previous testimony.
Mario Alfonso Cuellar and Hector Moreno, who are serving time on narcotics charges, sat in prison uniforms on the stand this month as they detailed for jurors an elaborate scheme that allowed the head of the Mexican criminal organization and his brother to sell cocaine from Colombia and Venezuela in the United States and transport the proceeds back south.
Those funds, prosecutors say, were moved back into U.S. banks via wire transfers, personal checks and other financial transactions by several of the defendants — and their unknowing accomplices — to be poured into front companies across the Southwest that bought, trained, bred and raced American quarter horses.
Over the four years he was forced to participate, Cuellar testified April 16, at least two businessmen involved were killed. Cuellar and Moreno said they eventually fled the country for fear of their safety.
But defense attorneys Christie Williams and David Finn on Thursday presented U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks with copies of the warrants issued for Cuellar and Moreno on July 25, 2012, in Piedras Negras in the Mexican state of Coahuila. They said Mexican attorneys had reviewed the documents and deemed them valid and that they planned to translate the records and compile a full report to present to the court next week.
Given Moreno’s testimony that he had fled Mexico because the Zetas wanted to kill him, these warrants are relevant, Williams said. “I think it is extremely important to know what agreement the men have with the (U.S.) government,” she said.
In the warrants, a witness told police that Cuellar and Moreno had pulled him into a white van, tied his hands, wrapped tape around his eyes and beaten him, telling him he had stolen some jewelry.
The victim said he did not know what the men were talking about but that they circled in the Tahoe for 10 minutes before they picked up another three men, all of whom they beat to death with a mallet, according to the documents. Cuellar and Moreno first broke the legs and arms of one the men they killed, the filings said.
Nearly 20 people are implicated in the money laundering case, including the leader of the Zetas, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, and his brother, another high-ranking official, Oscar Omar Treviño Morales. Both men remain on the loose.