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Texas Border County Commissioner Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Federal Bribery Case

A federal judge sentenced a Texas border county commissioner to 20 years in prison for his role in a multi-million-dollar bribery scheme. A former border city commissioner turned witness also received a lighter sentence.

This week, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar, 69, to 20 years in prison and ordered him to pay $4.1 million in restitution, information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas revealed. During the same hearing, Alvarez also sentenced John Cuellar, 60, to three years in prison, and Ricardo Quintanilla, 57, to 16 years and six months in prison.

John Cuellar pleaded guilty to the charges and testified against his cousin A.C. and Quintanilla. In October 2022, jurors convicted A.C. Cuellar, 61, of separate counts of various fraud, bribery, and money laundering charges. In the same trial, jurors also convicted Quintanilla on 15 similar charges.

Authorities claim the bribery and contract rigging conspiracy began in March 2008 and continued until 2015.

According to prosecutors, A.C. Cuellar and Quintanilla agreed to bribe Weslaco Commissioners John Cuella and Gerardo “Gerry” Tafolla to get them to vote in favor of certain companies for various construction projects in Weslaco. These contracts included the rehabilitation of Weslaco’s water treatment plant which was worth more than $38 million.

Dave Hendricks from The Progress Times reported that A.C. Cuellar paid $405,000 to his cousin John in exchange for votes and influence to move more than $50 million in contracts toward certain engineering companies. Federal prosecutors claim that A.C. tried to pass off the bribe as legitimate legal expenses.

“Weslaco was warned for years to upgrade its water infrastructure in order to provide potable water,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Alamdar S. Hamdani, in a prepared statement. “The defendants used this opportunity to participate in a multi-million dollar scheme that ultimately saddled residents with debt and bribery costs for their drinking water system. We hope the message in today’s sentencings will deter others from committing such crimes and provide some closure to the citizens of Weslaco.”

 

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