Latin Music Exec Asks Judge to Dismiss Federal Charges Over Alleged Link to Mexican Cartels

A Latin music executive accused of doing business with a concert promoter linked to Mexican drug cartels is now asking a federal judge to dismiss the charges, arguing that the indictment is unfairly vague and the sign of an eventual “sucker punch” by prosecutors.

Angel Del Villar, the CEO of Los Angeles-based Del Records, was charged in 2022 with violating a federal law that bars U.S. residents from doing business with known drug traffickers. Prosecutors say he repeatedly arranged concerts with a Guadalajara-based promoter who has ties to Mexican cartels.

But in a motion filed Thursday, Del Villar’s attorneys say the indictment failed to clearly state what aspects of that federal law he allegedly violated, leaving him unable to properly prepare a defense.

“The purpose of an indictment is to protect individuals from government ambush,” writes Del Villar’s attorney. “A person whose liberty is at stake is entitled to know with certainty what offenses they are alleged to have committed [and] against what theories they must be prepared to contend.”

“The indictment here thwarts those goals,” Del Villar’s lawyers say. “Neither Del Villar nor his codefendants, upon reading it, can be sure from which direction the government’s attack will come — a sure setup for a sucker punch.”

Del Villar is represented by Drew Findling, a well-known criminal defense attorney for music industry figures. The Atlanta lawyer with has previously represented Gucci Mane, YFN Lucci and members of Migos in criminal cases; last year, he successfully defended Cardi B over a microphone-throwing incident in Las Vegas.

Founded by Del Villar in 2008, Del Records has grown into a top record company for Regional Mexican music. The label is home to música mexicana supergroup Eslabon Armado, whose global hit, “Ella Baila Sola” with Peso Pluma, became one of the biggest songs of 2023, as well as Lenin Ramirez and other chart-topping artists.

But in June 2022, Del Villar, 41, and chief financial officer Luca Scalisi, 56, and Del Records itself were all charged with conspiring to violate the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Passed in 1999, the law allows the U.S. to impose targeted sanctions on foreign individuals involved in the illegal drug trade and ban U.S. residents from doing business with them.

In Del Villar’s case, prosecutors claim that he repeatedly worked with Jesus Perez Alvear, a Mexican concert promoter who runs a company called Gallistica Diamente (Ticket Premier). The U.S. Treasury Department added Perez to the sanctions list in 2018, claiming he and Gallistica had helped cartels “exploit the Mexican music industry to launder drug proceeds and glorify their criminal activities.”

Prosecutors claim Del Villar and Scalisi used Perez to arrange four Mexican concerts for an undisclosed Del Records artist, then accepted nearly $200,000 in payments from him, all while clearly aware that Perez had been sanctioned. Charging documents cite a never-sent Del Records press release acknowledging that status, as well as private messages in which Scalisi noted that Perez was “under homeland security watch” and Del Villar was directly told that Perez was “a sanctioned US person.”

Two and a half years later – after the case was pushed back numerous times – both Del Villar and Scalisi are now pushing to dismiss the charges.

In his filing on Thursday, Del Villar’s attorneys argue that the indictment is not clear about which aspect of the Kingpin Act he was accused of violating. Is it a provision banning transactions related to a significant drug trafficker, or another one prohibiting transactions that seek to evade the law itself? Findling says prosecutors “do not specify.”

“It would be one thing had the indictment plainly set out the precise elements of [those separate provisions],” Del Villar’s attorney writes. “It would even be acceptable had the indictment set out facts that would make clear which provision was at issue. But it does neither.”

A response from prosecutors is due next month. If the case is not dismissed, a trial is tentatively scheduled for October.