January 15, 2008
Mauricio Celis: Hillary Backer, Drug Dealer?
Last November, I wrote about the case of Hillary Clinton backer Mauricio Celis, whose ownership of a law practice resulted in an indictment containing charges of impersonating a lawyer and fraudulent business practices. Now the state of Texas has a new investigation of Celis which includes money laundering and suspected involvement in Mexican drug cartels:
Mauricio Celis is linked to the Mexican drug trade in a search warrant the state used Friday to raid his law offices and gather computer files, according to financial documents and other business records. The warrant includes a sworn statement by a Texas Attorney General's official accusing Celis of money laundering. ...
The state searched a U.S. Treasury database and border crossing data to determine that Celis went to Mexico frequently after withdrawing large sums of cash, according to an affidavit accompanying the warrant.
"Celis is rumored to be associated with questionable criminal element (sic) possibly related to drug trafficking," the affidavit states.
The affidavit, by Capt. Alex Pena of the Attorney General's Office, states that Pena "believes that Mauricio Celis has committed the felony offense of money laundering."
A document the state obtained from Frost Bank showed a joint account signed by Celis and Raul Armando Winder, a Mexican citizen and former police officer who has been employed as a pilot by individuals linked to narcotic trafficking, according to the affidavit. The account was for a business called Pegasus Air Services, which Celis owned from 2002-05, according to the Texas Secretary of State. Winder is listed as vice president on the bank application.
As I noted in November, Celis is a fairly heavy hitter in Texas Democrat circles. How important is Celis? In the last three cycles, Celis donated over $110,000 to Democrats. Donations went to John Edwards, Claire McCaskill, Ken and John Salazar, and especially the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the DNC, the latter two of which accounts for almost half of those donations. Hillary Clinton received a maximum donation of $2300 from Celis in March, presumably for her primary fund.
In a suddenly competitive Democratic primary, this kind of association is the last thing that Hillary needs. However, this has the potential to embarrass more Democrats than just Hillary Clinton. Anyone who received money from Celis will have to explain their association with an alleged fraud, perjurer, and drug-cartel "investor".
At the time, I said that the Celis story would be minor in comparison to the Norman Hsu scandal. I may have underestimated the problem at the time, given the developments in this case.