SAN ANTONIO (CN) — A Texas state senator faces more than 200 years in prison if convicted of multiple federal charges of fraud and money laundering in a Ponzi scheme and taking bribes in connection with a government contract.
Carlos Uresti, 53, a three-term Democrat from San Antonio, was expected to plead not guilty Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad. The two grand jury indictments accuse him of multiple counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Charged with Uresti in one indictment unsealed Tuesday is Vernon C. Farthing, the president of a company that provides medical care to inmates.
The other indictment, the Ponzi scheme, or “Four Winds Indictment,” charges Uresti and two other men with running a Ponzi scheme involving investments in a bogus fracking enterprise.
Also charged in that indictment are Four Winds CEO Stanley P. Bates, 45, and Four Winds consultant Gary L. Cain, 60, all of San Antonio, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The Four Winds indictment also charges Uresti with five counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud, engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activity, and being an unregistered securities broker.
Bates is also charged with wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud, and three counts of engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activity.
Cain faces seven counts of engaging in monetary transactions with property derived from unlawful activity.
Each fraud count is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, money laundering by 10 years, and being an unregistered securities broker by 20 years.
Uresti denied the charges Tuesday and vowed to return to his job as one of 11 Democrats in the 31-member senate.
“The charges against me are groundless and I look forward to proving my innocence in a court of law at the appropriate time,” Uresti said. “I will enter a plea of not guilty and immediately return to work representing District 19.”
District 19, in West Texas, includes the town of Pecos and Reeves County.
The Four Winds indictment accuses the men of making false statements to solicit investors the fracking scheme, using the money as Ponzi payments and skimming from it for themselves.
FBI agents raided Uresti’s San Antonio law office in February in the Four Winds investigation.
Uresti also faces a civil lawsuit filed in South Texas in January. In that case in Hidalgo County Court, Denise Cantu accuses Uresti of defrauding her of $900,000 in Four Winds. Also named as defendants in the civil suit are Lionor de la Fuente, of San Antonio, and JP Morgan Chase bank.
In the other Tuesday indictment, Uresti is accused of conspiring to pay and accept bribes to get a medical services contract for Farthing, 44, Lubbock.
It accuses Uresti of taking $10,000 from Farthing for consulting services, and giving half of it to Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo official for his support and vote to steer the medical services contract for the Reeves County Detention Center to Farthing’s company.
Galindo is named as a co-conspirator in the indictment, but not as a defendant.
A county judge in Texas is not a judicial officer, but the head of the county commission.
Uresti, an attorney and former Marine, represents almost 800,000 Texans in his border district that is one of the largest geographical districts in the United States. He served nine years in the Texas House of Representatives before winning a Democratic primary for the District 19 state Senate seat in 2006.
Texas Republicans seized the opportunity to pounce on Uresti’s record.
“Nobody should be surprised to see that crooked Texas Democrat, Carlos Uresti, has been indicted by a grand jury,” said state Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler. “As we inch closer to 2018, voters deserve to know that their elected officials are acting in the best interest of our state.”
Texas legislators meet for 140 days on odd years and draw an annual salary of $7,200, in addition to $190 for each day of the legislative session.