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Mexico's "Most Powerful Woman" Arrested For Stealing Million From Teachers' Union



TOLUCA - Forbes magazine named her the “most powerful woman in Mexico” in 2012, but now Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, is under arrest for embezzling more than $156 million dollars from the country's main teachers union.

Esther Gordillo, former head of Mexico's long-ruling PRI party and longtime teachers union chief, was arrested late Tuesday, a day before the government submitted major educational reforms aimed at limiting her power. She is accused of running up a million-dollar tab at Neiman Marcus, and using embezzled funds to pay for plastic surgery.

Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam stated: “We are looking at a case in which the funds of education workers have been illegally misused for the benefit of several people, among them, Elba Esther Gordillo.”


She was officially detained with criminal charges of illegal operations of “illicit origin”, which amount to 2.6 billion pesos (around $125 million), and cannot be released under bail.

Esther Gordillo is accused of having used some of the funds to pay for cosmetic surgeries, two residences in California, trips on private jets, shopping in expensive luxury stores and art galleries, with the help of corrupt collaborators who helped “triangulate” the resources.

El Universal reports that the “teacher” as they call her, declared 1.1 million pesos (around $86,000) in revenue from 2009 to 2012, while, in reality, she spent around 80 million pesos (around $6 million). The Attorney General declared that between March 2009 and January 2012, there were money transfers to Neiman Marcus totaling $2.1 million.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has pushed forward the reforms that seek to change a system dominated by Esther Gordillo as direct and indirect President of the Teachers Labor Union (SNTE) since 1989, in which it was widely known that teaching positions could be sold or inherited.

Esther Gordillo was also Secretary General of the PRI party from 2002 to 2005, and served in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

Milenio reports, that she was arrested yesterday around 7:00 pm in the airport of Toluca and spent the night in the women’s correctional center of Santa Martha Acatitla.

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