International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Texas Men Arrested for Bribery, Attorney Laundered Via IOLTA Account

Three Texas men, including a former Weslaco City Commissioner and a former Hidalgo County Commissioner, were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Download Cuellar Criminal Complaint

Criminal complaints were filed in the Southern District of Texas against former Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar, 56, of Weslaco, Texas, and former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo Cuellar Jr., 65, of Hidalgo County, Texas.  They are charged with conspiring to bribe a Weslaco City Commissioner in exchange for official actions favorable to three engineering companies and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Daniel Garcia, 40, an attorney based in Rio Grande City, Texas, was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the complaint, starting in approximately March 2008, Cuellar agreed to accept bribes from three engineering companies that were funneled through Cuellar Jr. and others. Cuellar and another Weslaco City Commissioner would then allegedly take actions favorable to the three companies in relation to contracts to rehabilitate and rebuild Weslaco’s water treatment facilities. 

According to the complaint, from approximately April 2008 through December 2015, Lopez received approximately $3.7 million from two engineering companies, and shared approximately $1.398 million with Cuellar Jr.  The complaint further alleges that Cuellar Jr. used a company he controlled to pay Cuellar approximately $405,000, disguised as legitimate legal expenses.  In exchange for these payments, Cuellar allegedly took several official actions to benefit the three construction companies, including the award of a $38.5 million contract to rehabilitate Weslaco’s water treatment plant.

The complaint further alleges that Lopez and Cuellar, Jr. enlisted Garcia, an attorney, to launder approximately $90,000 in bribe payments to Cuellar through Garcia’s interest on lawyers trust (IOLTA) account.

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