Mexico's Most Powerful Union Leader Accused of Embezzling Millions

Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, was arrested Tuesday after landing in a private plane from San Diego

By R. Stickney
|  Thursday, Feb 28, 2013  |  Updated 9:53 AM PDT
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Mexico's Most Powerful Union Leader Accused of Embezzling Millions

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One of the most powerful women in Mexico has been arrested, accused of misusing millions in union funds in part, on a house in Coronado.

Elba Esther Gordillo, 68, was arrested Tuesday along with three others at the Toluca airport near Mexico City just after landing on a private plane from San Diego.

Gordillo is the head of the country's controversial teachers union and is considered one of the country’s most powerful political operators.

Prosecutors had never brought a charge against her until Tuesday, when she was arrested and accused of embezzling $160 million in union funds.

Federal prosecutors claim Gordillo was using the illicit funds to pay for plastic surgery bills, shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus and a $1 million house in Coronado.

Rivals have long accused her of corruption, misuse of union funds and even a murder.

Critics accused her of amassing more than a dozen properties worth millions of dollars.

The newspaper Reforma once published a story analyzing one of her outfits and noting she was carrying a $5,500 purse and wearing $1,200 shoes.

She has acknowledged some of the wealth, saying part was inherited and part she earned through her job that paid her about $6,000 (80,000 pesos) per month.
 

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