Conexión Del Río/Staff Report

SAN ANTONIO – A 45-year-old Mexican national, Mauricio Sanchez-Garza, made his initial appearance in federal court on Monday, July 26, 2016, following his extradition from Mexico. Sanchez is charged by two federal grand jury indictments in the Western District of Texas with laundering drug distribution proceeds and committing extortion in a scheme involving a Hollywood screenplay.

That announcement was made today by United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.; Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge, Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division; Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge, Shane Folden; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge William Cotter; and, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Sanchez had remained a fugitive since fleeing the United States to avoid prosecution in 2010.  Sanchez faces two separate federal grand jury indictments.  On December 15, 2010, a federal grand jury charged Sanchez with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of money laundering. On July 20, 2011, a separate federal grand jury charged Sanchez with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to court records (SA10CR1088), in 2008, Sanchez and 38-year-old Mexican national Jorge Vasquez Sanchez conspired to steal by force a movie manuscript from its rightful owner. The movie, a project between the owner and Proud Mary Productions, was billed as a prequel to “The Passion of Christ.”

On June 12, 2013, Jorge Vasquez Sanchez was sentenced to four years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of extortion. The Court also ordered that Jorge Sanchez forfeit to the Government his rights and interests in the movie project —15 percent of the net profits of the motion picture.

According to court records (SA11CR616), from 2005 until July 2011, Mauricio Sanchez, Jorge Sanchez and Mauricio’s brother, 47-year-old Mexican national Alejandro Sanchez-Garza, conspired to transport into the United States and conduct financial transactions with proceeds derived from illegal drug trafficking in order to conceal the nature of the funds.

Specifically, the defendants entered into joint ventures with drug traffickers by funneling proceeds generated from drug trafficking through their businesses and corporate entities to make the proceeds appear to be legitimate and lawful; insulate the drug traffickers from evidence of criminal involvement in the proceeds; and, to attempt to make a profit for both the defendants and the drug traffickers.

This indictment also contains a notice of criminal forfeiture which seeks the forfeiture of two San Antonio commercial properties as well as a 1991 Bombardier Learjet 31.  The indictment also seeks a monetary judgment in the amount of $5 million representing proceeds derived from the above-mentioned scheme.

Alejandro Sanchez-Garza was arrested in September 2012.  On August 19, 2014, Alejandro Sanchez-Garza was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The court also ordered that Alejandro Sanchez forfeit to the Government his rights and interests in the properties as well as the Learjet.

This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, and the Texas Attorney General’s Office.  The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs provided assistance with the extradition.  The department appreciates the support of the government of Mexico in extraditing the defendant to the United States.