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Clerk and Attorney Convicted of Corruption

EL PASO, Texas (CN) - A federal jury convicted a former El Paso County clerk and an El Paso attorney of participating in a county government bribery scheme. Former El Paso County District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez and attorney Luther Jones were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and deprivation of honest services.

Prosecutors say the men conspired to secure a multimillion-dollar document-imaging contract between El Paso County and one of Jones' clients. In exchange for cash bribes and expenses, Sanchez was to steer the contract in his official capacity.

Jones paid cash bribes to Sanchez in January 2004 and paid for hotel and air expenses to Las Vegas for Sanchez and Fernando Parra - an office manager at the district clerk's office, according to the indictment.

Parra is now a cooperating witness for the prosecution.

In exchange, Jones was shown the competing proposals for the contract and wanted the Request for Proposal to be written to favor the proposal made by his client. Prosecutors say Jones went so far as to offer to get the county employee a pay raise in exchange for inserting limitations and specifications in the RFP that would favor his client, that he would do so by securing the necessary votes from the El Paso County Commissioners Court.

Prosecutors say that 2 months later, El Paso County Commissioner Betti Flores accepted a bribe in the form of a campaign contribution in exchange for her vote supporting Jones' client. Jones paid for entertainment expenses for Sanchez and Parra, including meals and drinks, and Sanchez failed to list any political contributions from Jones or his client in his July 2004 campaign finance report, according to the indictment.

This is not the first time Jones has been accused of bribing El Paso County officials. The county sued him in 2009 in Federal Court, in a civil complaint involving a sealed-bid sale of a 381-acre parcel of county land.

The county said Jones paid bribes to Flores and gave her free legal representation in exchange for her votes in several matters. In one case, the county said, Flores accepted legal representation in an unrelated personal criminal matter for her vote that the county relinquish its rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act regarding work schedules and overtime pay for sheriff's officers. The county said that as a result, citizens had to pay millions of extra dollars to sheriff's deputies and detention officers.

Sanchez and Jones each faces to up to 20 years in prison on the fraud charge. No sentencing date has been set.

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