Mayor allegedly made his fortune by selling stolen fuel

Perhaps following a core principle of Mexican politics, that a politician who is poor is a poor politician, the mayor of Palmar de Bravo, Puebla, became a successful gas station entrepreneur.

And the secret to his success was allegedly selling stolen gasoline.

Pablo Morales Ugalde, now being called the “huachicolero mayor,” had amassed a fortune of 54 million pesos (US $2.9 million) by the time he was arrested on Wednesday for the use of funds derived from illegal sources, money laundering and fuel theft.

The investigation into Morales found he opened two gas stations in 2014 and soon opened two more where he began selling stolen fuel, which has now given him the “huachicolero” nickname: it means fuel thief.

The four stations, valued at 30 million pesos, generated revenues that allowed Morales to purchase other properties.

In 2015 he bought a piece of land in the municipality of Tecamachalco where he built an 11-million-peso hotel.

One year later Morales purchased a 13-room boutique hotel valued at 13 million pesos.

Morales also invested 300,000 pesos in the construction of posh offices on one of his properties in the municipality of Tepeaca.

The state oil company Pemex terminated its contract with Morales after it decided he was selling stolen fuel and three of his gas stations shut down on May 28. The fourth closed a shor time later.

After his arrest this week by agents from the federal Attorney General’s office and Navy personnel, the municipality appeared to shut down: none of the municipal staff went to work.

“Nobody’s in, I couldn’t tell you what time they’ll get here,” a lone municipal police officer told the newspaper Reforma.

Palmar de Bravo is located in the Red Triangle region of Puebla, where petroleum theft has become a way of life for many and part of the local culture.

Source: Reforma (sp)