Two Former Elected Leaders In South Texas Are Busted For Bribery

Kelli Wiese
April 05, 2019 - 4:48 pm

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RIO GRANDE CITY (1080 KRLD) - Former Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar along with his uncle, former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo Cuellar Jr. and Attorney Daniel Garcia in Rio Grande City, Texas face bribery related charges.

In 2008, Cuellar agreed to accept bribes from three engineering companies that were funneled through Cuellar Jr. and others. Prosecutors say Cuellar and another Weslaco City Commissioner would then take actions favorable to the three companies in relation to contracts to rehabilitate and rebuild Weslaco's water treatment facilities.

Investigators say from around April 2008 through December 2015, Lopez received around $3.7 million from two engineering companies, and shared about $1.398 million with Cuellar Jr. Investigators say Cuellar Jr. used a company he controlled to pay Cuellar approximately $405,000, disguised as legitimate legal expenses. In exchange for this, Cuellar is accused to taking several official actions to benefit the three construction companies. This includes the award of a $38.5 million contract to rehabilitate Weslaco's water treatment plant.

Prosecutors say Lopez and Cuellar, Jr. asked Garcia to launder around $90,000 in bribe payments to Cuellar through Garcia's interest on lawyers trust (IOLTA) account.                                                                                              

The FBI and IRS-CI conducted the investigation. Trial Attorneys Peter M. Nothstein and Jessica C. Harvey of the Criminal Division's Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.