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When she wasn’t busy stealing cocaine from drug traffickers, Carmen Saldaña Meyer apparently dabbled in bank fraud.
Saldaña, 63, of Mission — who is awaiting sentencing in a federal drug trafficking case — pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit fraud, a federal felony punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Aside from the word “guilty,” Saldaña said little during her brief appearance in federal court.
Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, arrested Saldaña in 2016.
The investigation linked Saldaña to Dimas De Leon, a Rio Grande Valley drug trafficker who owned a variety of legitimate businesses.
De Leon worked with corrupt cops and Border Patrol agents to steal drug shipments.
“During the course of the investigation, agents received information that the Defendant and his conspirators were involved in a scheme in which they would create ‘sham’ bundles of cocaine,” which would be seized by law enforcement, according to De Leon’s plea agreement. “The purpose of having the ‘sham’ bundles seized by law enforcement was to cover up the theft of the actual cocaine from the owners of the cocaine.”
After the corrupt cops or Border Patrol agents seized the “sham” cocaine, though, the drug traffickers needed to convince their suppliers in Mexico.
Saldaña handled that delicate task in April 2013, when the drug traffickers staged a 18-kilogram cocaine bust in Houston.
“MEYER stated that her role was to provide a copy of the police report documenting the seizure to the owner of the cocaine. MEYER advised that the first police report she received looked fake, so she obtained additional documentation to provide to the owner of the cocaine,” according to the criminal complaint against her. “MEYER stated that she then subsequently went to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico and provided the documentation of the seizure to the owner of the cocaine although she knew that the documentation was false and that the cocaine had in fact been stolen. MEYERS advised that the co-conspirators paid MEYERS for her assistance.”
Despite her confession, Saldaña took the case against her to trial. A jury convicted her in July 2019.
Saldaña, however, apparently didn’t limit herself to drug trafficking.
In 2015, she also participated in a scheme to alter the payment information on business checks, deposit them in a Corpus Christi attorney’s bank account and withdraw the cash.
Saldaña worked with two women, Annette Garza and Rebekha Bonachea, according to federal court records. They somehow obtained two checks from Las Vegas-based Caesar’s Enterprise Services and a third check from Abilene-based Rentech Boiler Systems.
The women altered the payment information and deposited the checks, which totaled about $126,000. They later withdrew the money and divided it among themselves.
As part of her plea agreement, Saldaña agreed to pay about $126,000 in restitution.
Saldaña is scheduled for sentencing in the drug trafficking case on Dec. 11. Sentencing in the bank fraud case is scheduled for Jan. 16.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 11, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.