EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A West Texas lawyer and former Carnegie Mellon University trustee on trial on charges he conspired to launder hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money testified Thursday that he never knew the funds he handled were from illegal activity.
Marco Antonio Delgado also told jurors during the fourth day of his trial that federal agents have lied and misrepresented facts or oversimplified matters in his case.
Delgado took the witness stand after prosecutors rested their case earlier Thursday. He's accused of devising a scheme to launder up to $600 million for the now disbanded Milenio cartel from 2007 to 2008.
Prosecutors are expected to present rebuttal witnesses before closing arguments, which could come by the end of Friday.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have previously testified that after Delgado was arrested in 2007 with $1 million, he confessed and agreed to cooperate. After his initial arrest, court records show, he confessed the $1 million was part of a "trial run" in what agents say was a money laundering operation.
But agents said Delgado continued moving drug money behind his handlers' backs, including a money pickup of $50,000 in Chicago in the summer of 2008.
However, Delgado testified he didn't know that any of the money he handled was tainted by drug trafficking and didn't learn about its true origin until after he was rearrested in 2012. "I never discussed a $600 million amount with any ICE agent," he told prosecutors Thursday.
"I did not know the funds were drug-related or illegal, neither were the ones from Chicago," he said when questioned by prosecutor Debra Kanof.
Delgado told jurors that he believed the $1 million was part of an inheritance from wealthy Mexican citizens who wanted to hide the money from relatives or extortionists.
He said the $50,000 was a payment from builders in Mexico who wanted to engage in work in the U.S. Agents previously testified that $45,000 was deposited in Delgado's law firm account.
Delgado testified he used the money to pay for expenses he had incurred while cooperating with federal agents.
Delgado's defense team has claimed that associates of Lilian De La Concha, the ex-wife of Mexico's ex-president Vicente Fox Quesada, had asked him to help move the funds associated with the inheritance and the construction companies.
Delgado also denied ICE agent Joshua Fry's testimony about Delgado saying it was De La Concha and her cousin-in-law Jose Quesada who organized the Chicago pickup and that "if anyone was involved, he (Delgado) believed it was Quesada."
"It's a lie! I don't know where he (Fry) came up with that name," Delgado told Kanof during cross-examination.
U.S. District Judge David Briones briefly halted Delgado's testimony as exchanges between Delgado and Kanof, the prosecutor, became heated during his cross-examination.
Delgado focused on attacking the credibility of the government's witnesses. Questioned about something that ICE agent Alex Asencio testified, Delgado responded, "We know about the credibility (of Asencio). He testified for over an hour, described my gestures, my subtleties, saying he was beside me, coaching me. When he was in Atlanta and I was in El Paso."
Asencio testified Wednesday about phone calls that Delgado made when he agreed to cooperate after his arrest in 2007.
Witnesses have described Delgado as a person who lied to a girlfriend about having cancer in order to break off the relationship, or telling one girlfriend that the money his other girlfriend deposited in the first woman's account — so that it could not be traced to him — came from a family business.
At the time of his arrest, the Carnegie Mellon University website said Delgado had given a $250,000 endowment for a scholarship named after him to assist Hispanic students. He also was a regular contributor to the El Paso Symphony Orchestra and a member of a local educational foundation.