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McAllen attorney involved in San Antonio lawsuit alleging Mexican corruption, U.S. involvement

Three Mexican businessmen allege in a lawsuit filed this week in San Antonio that a U.S. investment firm

had help from the governments of both countries to defraud them in a real estate deal.

The allegations are part of a messy, yearslong legal dispute over the development of a resort on Mexico’s

Pacific coast.

Ernesto Karam Garcia and Miguel Angel Leyva Urquia, both of whom have residences in San Antonio,

and Salvador Rio De La Loza Postigo, who lives in Florida, allege that they were defrauded by New Yorkbased

Clarion Partners LLC, a real estate investment management company with more than $38 billion

in assets worldwide, in a Mexican land development deal.

The three have had their own legal troubles. In 2012, the Mexican government accused Karam, Leyva

and Rio De La Loza of taking part in a massive fraud in that country. Two have been arrested, and Karam

was in jail Wednesday in Mexico.

In their lawsuit, the three men say those arrests were part of Clarion Partners’ efforts to defraud them

and that employees of the company bribed a Mexican official who used his influence to have them

harassed by U.S. officials.

“Defendants found it easy to use the power of money to corrupt public officials in Mexico and resorted

to various racketeering activities such as fraud, extortion, bribery and obstruction of justice to illegally

take property and business interests of plaintiffs and others to enrich themselves,” the lawsuit states.

Karam, Leyva and Rio De La Loza allege that Clarion Partners, an affiliated partnership, company

officers James Christian Hendricks and Onay Safiya Patrice Payne and employee Ronald Scott Brown

violated U.S. racketeering laws and tort laws and defrauded them of their stake in the Mexico

properties. They’re requesting unspecified damages and an injunction against prosecution.

Clarion Partners characterized the lawsuit as a maneuver made after the businessmen were unable to

convince judges in Mexico that they were defrauded.

“Clarion Partners operates with the utmost integrity and within the bounds of law,” spokeswoman Derya

Elmali wrote in an email. “We deny these baseless allegations of wrongdoing, which have already been

dismissed in various Mexican courts.”

The allegations stem from a 2007 real estate deal in Mexico. Karam, Leyva and Rio De La Loza had taken

out $19.5 million in loans to develop a resort in Acapulco, according to the lawsuit. They sought

investment from U.S. firms, and Clarion Partners put up more than $20 million.

In their lawsuit, the Mexican businessmen allege that, because of Mexican tax laws, Clarion Partners

asked to have its investment structured as though it were a loan.

In 2012, the lawsuit alleges, a lawyer for Clarion Partners worked with a local prosecutor in Mexico City

to have fraud charges brought against the three men.

In October 2012, according to the lawsuit, Leyva was denied entry to the United States as he returned

from a business trip to Canada. Instead, he flew to Mexico City, where he was arrested.

In July 2013, Rio De La Loza and his wife were detained by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs

Enforcement in Miami, questioned about whether they owed money in Mexico and released, according

to the lawsuit.

Later that year, Karam was arrested by ICE officials in San Antonio and deported to Mexico. He and two

others were wanted in that country on allegations that they were involved in a $150 million fraud,

according to a news release from ICE.

Though Karam was still in jail in Mexico on Wednesday, his lawyer said, he was expected to be released


“He has been held due to the false allegations for a couple of years,” McAllen attorney Jaime Peña wrote

in an email. “He is being processed after courts found no merit, but it’s been a long process.”

The lawsuit alleges that the arrests were carried out at the behest of Jes s Murillo Karam, who was

Mexico’s attorney general from 2012 until earlier this year. Clarion gave as a gift a penthouse condo to

Murillo, the lawsuit alleges. In exchange, according to the lawsuit, Murillo encouraged the U.S.

government to help find Karam, Leyva and Rio De La Loza. Murillo is not named as a defendant in the


Spokespeople for ICE and the Mexican government, neither of which are defendants, said they couldn’t

comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Murillo said he didn’t have enough information to


Written by
Jason Buch - Express News San Antonio