Marco Delgado, the former Carnegie Mellon University trustee charged in connection with a half-billion-dollar money laundering scheme for a Mexican drug cartel, was not just a name on school letterhead.
The Oakland university hailed the El Paso lawyer for awarding its Heinz School of Public Policy and Management $250,000 in 2003 to endow fellowships for Hispanic graduate students. Delgado received a master's degree from the Heinz School in 1990.
The grateful school matched his gift 100 percent and established the Marco Delgado Fellowship for the Advancement of Hispanics in Public Policy.
Three years later the university named Delgado to its board of trustees, and he served there until June, university officials said. He also served on the Dean's Advisory Council of the Heinz School.
Robert Strauss, a professor in the Heinz School, was stunned to hear of Delgado's arrest.
"I've known Marco Delgado for some considerable number of years. He was never a student (of Strauss') but always was interested in our Hispanic students, and he has been generous," he said.
Asked if there are any concerns about the origins of Delgado's 2003 gift, CMU spokesman Kenneth Walters said, "We simply have no knowledge about this matter and so must reserve comment while the appropriate authorities investigate."
Agents from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations arrested Delgado, 46, on Friday at an El Paso restaurant. He has been in federal custody since then and is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Norbert Garney on Thursday morning for a bond hearing.
A federal grand jury entered a sealed indictment against him Sept. 5. It alleges he conspired with unnamed others to launder more than $600 million from a Mexican cartel's drug trafficking business between July 2007 and December 2008.
"Drug cartels operate solely on the basis of greed. However, when they can also corrupt trusted authorities, the integrity and stability of both countries' financial infrastructure may be at risk," said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso.
In a biography that until recently appeared on CMU's Heinz School website, Delgado identified himself as one of the founders of an offshore partnership that he said has become a multinational enterprise dealing in "fee-based energy assets."
The biography said Delgado took a leave from his law practice in early 2012 to aid Enrique Pena Nieto's successful campaign for the Mexican presidency and "has been asked to assist as a member of his transition team." The Nieto transition does not list him.
Neither the U.S. Embassy in Mexico nor the Mexican president's office responded to inquiries.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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