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Harry Cassin
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Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
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Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
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Russell A. Stamets
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Richard Bistrong
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Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Why She Can’t Be Free

The government, we now know, will ask for a prison term of three or four years for Angela Aguilar when she comes to trial in late March for conspiracy and money-laundering. Until then, the feds want to keep her locked up.

She’s a flight risk, prosecutors say, because of her wealth, her ability to travel, her stable family in Mexico, and yes, even the grandchild she’s expecting in March.

We’re not sure, metaphysically, how such blessings turn into curses. But we imagine Angela Aguilar, 55, must be asking herself that question a lot these days.

She’s miscast in the role of prisoner. At her first court appearance in August last year, a day after her arrest in front of her daughter, a reporter said: “She was brought into a Houston federal court Friday in shackles and handcuffs. . . Even in the orange uniform of a prisoner, [Aguilar] stood out in court, with her stylish blonde-streaked haircut, red nail polish and confident posture.”

The DOJ charged her at first with FCPA offenses, later replaced by conspiracy and money laundering counts. Since her arrest and transfer to California, she’s been held without bail at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.

The government thinks her husband, Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega, led her into the alleged crimes — helping arrange millions in bribes from Lindsey Manufacturing to officials at the Mexican state-owned electric utility, Comisión Federal de Electridad. The husband, 56, was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, four substantive FCPA violations, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. He’s a fugitive, apparently still in Mexico. 

In its proposed order denying her motion for bail, the government this month set out its arguments why Angela Aguilar can’t be free. The order isn’t final yet — the judge hasn’t spoken. And unless she’s convicted at trial, Angela Aguilar is presumed innocent, and neither her indictment nor the government’s motion to deny her bail are evidence of guilt.

*     *     *

Here’s an excerpt from the prosecution’s latest court filing. Even under the weight of legal argument and formal presentation, Angela Aguilar’s tragedy jumps off the page:

[C]onspiracy to launder monetary instruments and money laundering are very serious charges. Although they carry a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years imprisonment, the more appropriate measure of the seriousness of these charges is the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Court accepts the government’s calculation of 37-46 months imprisonment as the possible guideline sentence defendant would face if she is convicted at trial and finds that this possible sentence gives defendant a strong incentive to flee if she is released on bond.

The Court further accepts the government’s proffer that over $5 million was deposited into the Grupo account referred to in the indictment by defendant Lindsey Manufacturing between 2002 and 2008, and that only $2 million of that money was later seized by the government. The Court finds that the un-seized money deposited into the Grupo and Sorvill accounts gives defendant and her husband, defendant Enrique Faustino Aguilar Noriega, access to large sums of money, thereby enhancing defendant’s risk of flight. Therefore, the Court finds that this factor weighs in favor of the government.

The third factor the Court considered was the history and characteristics of defendant. The Court finds that defendant’s alienage, while itself not conclusive on the issue of flight, greatly weakens the likelihood defendant would return for trial if she were released on bail. The Court finds that defendant lacks any significant ties to the United States and has refused to remain in the United States pending trial.

Defendant has had little to no residency in the United States and has never been employed in the United States. Defendant’s entire immediate family resides in Mexico, including her husband and children. Moreover, defendant’s daughter, Angela Maria Aguilar Gomez, is pregnant and is anticipated to give birth on the verge of defendant’s March 29, 2011 trial date. The Court believes that granting defendant’s motion for bail under thesecircumstances would put defendant in the difficult position of having to choose between leaving her daughter’s side at or around the time she is due to give birth to her first child and complying with the Court’s order, circumstances that make defendant’s risk of flight even greater.

The Court has also considered the fact that defendant’s husband remains a fugitive in Mexico and finds that defendant’s husband would likely exert undue influence over defendant to become a fugitive if she were allowed to return to Mexico. The record supports the conclusion that defendant was less culpable than her husband in the charged conspiracy and would be susceptible to such influence. Defendant’s husband would benefit from defendant’s fugitive status . . . . Therefore, the Court finds that this factor weighs in favor of the government.

Download a copy of the government’s January 5, 2011 proposed order denying defendant Angela Maria Gomez Aguilar’s motion for bail in U.S. v. Aguilar here.

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