JANUARY 07, 2008
An influential Democratic donor who has given Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign the federal limit and has been indicted for illegally practicing law, had his offices raided by authorities who say he launders money for Mexican drug cartels.
Renowned in ritzy Corpus Christi circles, Mauricio Celis has for years been one of Texas’ most generous Democratic donors, but the millionaire businessman has been the center of an ongoing criminal investigation that involves his deep-rooted ties to Mexico’s lucrative drug-smuggling industry.
In a pair of unrelated legal encounters, Celis was indicted by a Nueces County grand jury in October for the unauthorized practice of law, a felony in Texas. Celis is licensed to practice law in his native Mexico but does not possess a license in any U.S. state. He was also charged with impersonating a sheriff’s deputy to silence a woman he sexually assaulted.
State authorities say that Celis is linked to the Mexican drug trade and a search warrant to raid his lavish law office accuses him of money laundering for several cartels. Authorities have already searched a U.S. Treasury database and border crossing data to determine that Celis went to Mexico frequently after withdrawing huge sums of cash.
State prosecutors also obtained a document from a local bank showing a joint account belonging to Celis and a Mexican police officer well known for trafficking narcotics. It has been well documented that many police departments throughout Mexico are infested with corrupt officers and supervisors who openly accept bribes and help smuggle drugs north of the border.
Regardless of Celis’ shady business escapades, Democrats have gladly accepted his hefty donations through the years. In fact, Celis is among the party’s most generous donors and fundraisers, cutting hefty checks and raising more than $100,000 at a single event in early 2007.
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