Attorney dropped for defendant in money laundering case

In this July 9, 2013 file photo, South Tex Beauty Supply can be seen in downtown McAllen. (Monitor photo)

Last week a suspect in a three-person money laundering case withdrew one of her attorneys, records show.

During a hearing Friday, the court allowed Maria Estela Suprise to withdraw attorney Carlos A. Garcia from her defense, records show.

The hearing, before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, was held Thursday related to an unopposed motion to withdraw the attorney from Suprise’s defense team, which includes another attorney, Harlingen-based Heriberto Medrano, records show.

Suprise is one of three defendants in a money laundering case related to events involving undercover federal agents.

Maria Suprise, 62, Daisy Suprise, 39, and Yolanda Peña, 53, were all implicated in a money laundering case after a more than two-year federal investigation into South Tex Beauty Supply, a salon furniture wholesale business with several locations around the Rio Grande Valley.

According to the criminal complaint against the three women, all purported employees of the business allegedly helped launder money derived from drug proceeds from the second floor office of the business.

In late February of this year, federal agents raided South Tex Beauty Supply where they found $11,000 in cash in Maria Suprise’s purse, which she claimed was one of the other two women’s money.

Daisy Suprise was also found with $6,000 in cash in her purse, which she claimed was a bonus from her employer, the record shows.

The investigation began more than three years ago when a purported drug trafficker contacted an associate, who unbeknownst to the drug trafficker, was working as a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The purported drug trafficker arranged to have the associate pick up roughly $63,500 in cash in Austin and Houston before dropping it off at South Tex Beauty Supply in McAllen.

Roughly a week later, the undercover associate delivered about $84,000 to Peña in a meeting held at a private office on the second floor of the business in McAllen.

Peña made remarks that acknowledged that the money was “dirty” and expressed to the undercover agent that she hoped there weren’t too many $5 bills because she was forced to hand-count all the bills due to a lack of a counting machine.

About five months later, the purported drug trafficker contacted the DEA undercover source and set up the movement of roughly 40 kilograms of meth to Dallas.

The undercover agent used fake bundles of the methamphetamine for a “controlled” delivery to four associates in Dallas for about $75,000.

The associates were arrested in Dallas and the fake meth was seized, court documents show.

A few days after the Dallas deal, the undercover source delivered nearly $56,000 in drug proceeds to Suprise and Peña on the second floor of the business where the women used a money counting machine to tally the cash, according to records.

During that meeting, Maria Suprise told the source that it would be easier to minimize suspicion if they used money orders from different locations in amounts ranging between $500 and $1,000.

After Maria Suprise confirmed the amount, the undercover source left the location.

Federal agents allege this delivery was directed by a known drug trafficker believed to be in Mexico at the time of the communications.

A jury trial is still currently set for June 8, but likely to be rescheduled.