Former state Sen. Carlos Uresti gets 5 years in prison in bribery case
Two-time felon and longtime San Antonio politician Carlos Uresti was sentenced to five years in federal prison today for his role in bribery case in Reeves County in West Texas.
Senior U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra gave Uresti until 2 p.m. next Tuesday to turn himself in to the U.S. Marshals.
Uresti pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in a public-corruption case out in Reeves County. That’s the maximum sentence Uresti could have received.
Uresti, though, caught a break when Ezra sided with prosecutors and defense lawyers, who recommended that the disgraced ex-state senator serve the sentence simultaneously with a 12-year prison term he received in an unrelated fraud case in June. He also must pay $876,000 in restitution to Reeves County.
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It will be at least 2029 before Uresti is eligible for release. He must serve three years’ probation following his release.
Uresti arrived surrounded by family and supporters, saying he was ready to accept responsibility for his actions.
“I’m ready to put this behind me, and I just ask for all your prayers,” he said.
Asked about his decision to plead guilty in the bribery case, he said: “I did what I thought what was not only in my best interest, but in the best interest of my family.”
Alicia O’Neill, one of Uresti’s defense lawyers, asked Ezra to allow her client to self-surrender, but the judge only gave Uresti seven days.
“He was convicted in February 2018,” Ezra said. “It is now Febuary 2019. Mr. Uresti has been out on bond for about one full year which is extraordinary in a case like this.”
About two dozen of Uresti family members and friends attended the sentencing, joined by media, courthouse personnel and other gawkers anxious to learn the longtime San Antonio Democrat’s fate.
The proceedings, though, lacked the spectacle and drama of his earlier sentencing, where many of the roughly 40 Uresti supporters donned blue ribbons and blue rubber wrist bands bearing Uresti’s name and inscribed, “Blue Ribbon Task Force,” which he had a hand in creating while in the Legislature to combat child abuse.
In October, Uresti pleaded guilty to directing bribes through then-Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo rather than stand trial. Galindo entered his own guilty plea in 2017 and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26.
OnExpressNews.com: Uresti enters guilty plea in bribery case
Uresti had been free on bond pending the sentencing.
Federal prosecutors obtained an indictment in May 2017 against Uresti and Lubbock businessman Vernon “Trey” Farthing II, charging them with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering in a case out of Reeves County in West Texas.
The money-laundering charged was dropped as part of Uresti’s plea deal. He gave up the appeal of his conviction and sentence in the fraud case. A jury convicted him nearly a year ago of 11 felonies, including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for his roles at FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oil-field services company.
Uresti surrendered his law license and resigned from the Senate following his conviction. Besides receiving a 12-year prison term, Uresti was ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution to FourWinds victims.
In the Reeves County case, Uresti and Farthing were accused of conspiring from January 2006 through September 2016 to pay and accept bribes to secure a Reeves County Correctional Center medical-services contract for Farthing’s company.
Prosecutors alleged Farthing paid Uresti $10,000 a month as a “consultant.” Half of that amount allegedly went to Galindo for his support and vote to award the contract to Farthing’s company, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said Uresti and Galindo shared about $800,000 in kickbacks.
Galindo, who served as county judge from 1995 to 2006, subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and failure to file a tax return. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26.
Farthing was acquitted by a San Antonio federal jury in November.
This article will be updated later today.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal courts in San Antonio and international legal issues. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @gmaninfedland