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Mexican Union Boss Accused of Embezzlement Has San Diego Ties

— The head of Mexico’s most powerful teacher’s union was arrested near Mexico City yesterday, accused of embezzling millions in union funds to pay for, among other things, homes in San Diego.

Aired 2/28/13 on KPBS News.

Mexican federal prosecutors say the union boss bought two homes in Coronado and spent more than $2 million at Fashion Valley's Neiman Marcus store, all with stolen money.

Elba Esther Gordillo has led the union since 1989, and in that role has been seen as a kingmaker in Mexican politics because of her ability to mobilize votes.

Suspicions of corruption have trailed her for decades, in part because of her use of private jets, her penchant for designer clothes, purses and expensive cars, and the fact that she owns a sprawling home in the San Diego community of Coronado.

A video uploaded to YouTube in 2010, apparently produced by union members, shows several members from Tijuana visiting the home, ringing Gordillo’s buzzer, and asking her to come to the door to speak in person. They say they want to discuss grievances with her as their union leader.

She tells the teacher they are on private property, to which he responds, “Yes, but we also know it’s property you bought with our dues.”

Gordillo thanks him and hangs up.

On Tuesday, Mexican prosecutors said that was in fact what she did. They accuse her of siphoning at least $200 million – possibly much more -- from union accounts.

They say she bought a second Coronado home, plastic surgery, more than $2 million in purchases at San Diego’s Neiman Marcus store, and private jet travel.

The arrest came the day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a major education reform bill that Gordillo had opposed. She was detained at an airport on her way to her union’s annual conference, fueling speculation the arrest was strategically timed.

Video

La mansión de Elba Esther Gordillo en San Diego Calif.

Comments

Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | February 27, 2013 at 8:35 p.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

With corruption rampant in Mexico I think it is fair to assume the allegations are true. To pause for the benefit of the doubt or to think otherwise --at this point-- would be unfair to the majority of people in Mexico who bear the burden of their country's chronic corruption. So, what do we Americans do? Is there anything our elected representatives can do to punish corrupt Mexicans (or anyone, for that matter) and return hard earned union dues to their rightful owners? I hope so. If not, we become as corrupt and complicit as our big bankers are who turn a blind eye to laundered drug money and obviously illicit fortunes in exchange for simple transaction fees (which are then turned into bonuses, options and dividends).

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | February 28, 2013 at 7:28 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

And another thing. This type of corruption may be foreign (and maybe even amusing) to us on this side of the border, but allowing it to get a free pass in the press or from our legal system on starts the corrosive effects of corruption over here. Corruption is slow and insidious, like a cancer or a virus. You have to expose it and deal with it every time it comes to light.

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Avatar for user 'alain_j_perez'

alain_j_perez | February 28, 2013 at 8:29 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

This type of corruption is not foreign, we also have it right here in our country. See what happened to Jesse Jackson, Jr.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | February 28, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

Right on!

But with so many Mexicans, especially affluent Mexicans, fleeing their country for all sorts of good reasons. I think it's important that we need to keep an eye on the ball. Mexican corruption is at all levels. Not so here. Why? We can actually do something about it with pour legal system.

We need to demand that our laws are not circumvented by the super-rich, super-corrupt.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | February 28, 2013 at 10:44 a.m. ― 1 year, 6 months ago

RC,

Don't fool yourself. Corruption is rampant at all levels of US government. From City Council to Mayor to Governor, and most of all federal.

Not to mention US union bosses are no different than their Mexican counterparts.

Just last month, one of the biggest union bosses in California was convicted of 14 counts of fraud and faces a 180 year prison sentence:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-tyrone-freeman-20130129,0,3528628.story

And this type of union corruption has been repeated over and over for decades. Nothing changes except their growing financial and political power.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 1, 2013 at 9:45 a.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Cali,

If you think our cases of corruption are as bad as Mexico's, you have a lot to learn about Mexico. It's on a whole different scale down there.

Yes, it happens way too much here, but by and large our laws are respected and they do work most of the time. The case you mention will grind through the legal system and the guilty man will pay a price.

In Mexico, corruption is a part of the culture, something that's accepted as a fact of daily life by everybody. In the USA, when someone is caught taking bribes, everyone get indignant. There? They shrug and hope the criminal gets what he deserves --knowing that someone in the courts will likely take a bribe to make the problem go away.

In any case, let's hope our elected pay close attention to this crooked lady. She sure looks to me like she's guilty. And she has no business bringing that mentality over here.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 1, 2013 at 12:12 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

REGULAR CRISTIAN, I don't understand your posts. it is both ethnocentric yet trying to be understanding at the same time!!!??? Why we would "we" in the US find this amusing? Are you not familiar with the corruption scandals at our local school districts: Sweetwater Union High School Dist, San Ysidro School Dist, etc. Are you not familiar with the money absconed from Valitar??? Are you not familiar with the whole city of Bellflower scam involving city officials of different ethnicities??? Are you not familiar with one city councilman whose initials are CDM??? I mean, I could go on.

Amusing?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

"we actually do something about it here"

For appearances sake, maybe Regular C. But then we have the naughty children of police captains getting police rides home.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 1, 2013 at 12:17 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

CA Off, though no match compared to corporate greed and corruption.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 1, 2013 at 12:20 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Regular C, there's been nepotism going on at local school districts for some decades now. No one does anything about it. It is merely accepted.

I would concur with CA Off (the sky is falling!) but ONLY in the sense that in all our legalism, corruption is more often prosecuted in the USA than in Mexico.

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Avatar for user 'RegularChristian'

RegularChristian | March 1, 2013 at 3:34 p.m. ― 1 year, 5 months ago

Here's the difference: Corruption is so bad in Mexico that Mexicans have no expectation anything will be done about it. Here? We get outraged, find it galling and demand action.

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