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Wed May 12, 2021, 02:18 AM

How Millions of Dollars Stolen From Mexican Taxpayers Passed Through One South Texas Bank

By MX 5/11/2021 05:00:00 PM
By Jason Buch from Texas Observer; Photography by Tomas Muscionico

Over the span of four years, federal investigators
estimated millions of dollars stolen from Mexican
taxpayers passed through one South Texas bank.
When they followed the trail, it led to real estate,
cars, and airplanes. But in 2018, those
investigations suddenly stopped.

Luis Carlos Castillo Cervantes’ nickname, “El Dragón,” makes him sound like a ruthless drug trafficker. His alias’ roots, however, are in the fairly mundane business he was known for in Mexico: He had the country’s exclusive license to lease a popular brand of road paving equipment. The machines, which scrape up and shred old asphalt as they pave roads, belch dark clouds of smoke. Hence, “El Dragón,” “the Dragon,” or “the King of Dragons,” as he’s also known.

Castillo built his business empire by being generous, including sending politicians duffel bags full of cash. Working with state governments in Mexico, Castillo seemed to find it almost impossible to do business without paying bribes. It was later revealed that he’d spent millions lining the pockets of officials across the country by inflating the value of his contracts to cover the added expenses. With money rolling in, he did what so many successful businessmen from northern Mexico do: He moved to Texas.

In Texas, Castillo wasn’t known by his intimidating moniker. He was known for his wealth: his famous friends; his lavish lifestyle, which included a garage full of cars, including a sports car and luxury sedans; his buying and selling of real estate; and his large donations to the campaigns of prominent politicians.

In 2005, Castillo completed construction on a 25,000-square-foot house in Mission, complete with a swimming pool, lines of citrus trees, and an 8,000-square-foot events venue, all surrounded by high compound walls.


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