A federal jury convicted two Texas men yesterday for conspiring to pay bribes to two city commissioners in Weslaco, Texas, in connection with millions of dollars in city contracts.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Richard Quintanilla, 57, of Weslaco, and former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo C. Cuellar Jr., 68, of Hidalgo County, agreed with others to bribe two Weslaco City Commissioners, John Cuellar and Gerardo Tafolla, in exchange for official actions favorable to engineering companies seeking large contracts with the city.
From approximately March 2008 through December 2015, one of the participants in the scheme received approximately $4.1 million from two engineering companies and shared nearly $1.4 million with Arturo Cuellar. Arturo Cuellar also used a company he controlled to facilitate the payment of approximately $405,000 in bribes to his cousin, John Cuellar, which were disguised as legitimate legal expenses. In exchange for these payments, John Cuellar took several official actions to benefit the companies, including helping to award a $38.5 million contract to rehabilitate Weslaco’s water treatment plant. Quintanilla also facilitated the payment of other bribes to Tafolla.
John Cuellar pleaded guilty in August 2019 to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and has not yet been sentenced. Tafolla pleaded guilty in April 2019 to federal program bribery and has not yet been sentenced.
Arturo Cuellar was convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, four counts of honest services wire fraud, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, 26 counts of money laundering, and 26 counts of using a facility in interstate commerce to facilitate unlawful activity. Quintanilla was convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, four counts of honest services wire fraud, federal program bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and seven counts of money laundering.
Arturo Cuellar and Quintanilla each face up to 20 years in prison on the top count. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 18, 2023. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. of the FBI San Antonio Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI San Antonio Field Office and IRS-CI Houston Field Office investigated the case.
Senior Litigation Counsel Marco A. Palmieri and Trial Attorney William J. Gullotta of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. for the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. Deputy Chief of PIN Peter M. Nothstein and former PIN Trial Attorneys Erica O’Brien Waymack and Jessica C. Harvey assisted in the prosecution.