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Mexican union leader to stand trial

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March 4, 2013 11:58 PM EST | AP


MEXICO CITY — A judge has ordered Mexico's most powerful union leader to stand trial on charges of embezzling 2 billion pesos (about $160 million) from the teachers' union she led for about a quarter-century.

The federal Judiciary Council says Elba Esther Gordillo and three co-defendants will stand trial for embezzlement and organized crime.

Gordillo was arrested last week. The Monday ruling means the judge found prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to justify a trial.

Prosecutors say she illegally used union funds to pay for purchases at Neiman Marcus department stores, U.S. plastic surgery bills and a home near San Diego.

The charges of her lavish lifestyle rankled sensibilities in a country where teachers are poorly paid and schools chronically underperform.

If found guilty, the 68-year-old Gordillo could face 30 years in prison.