Former ACCESS President Sentenced To Federal Prison In El Paso Corruption Case
In El Paso today, former ACCESS Health Source Chief Executive Officer and President Frank Apodaca and El Paso Public Relations consultant Marc Schwartz were each sentenced to eight years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for their roles in conspiring to engage in a racketeering scheme focusing on the now-defunct company announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and FBI Special Agent in Charge Douglas E. Lindquist.
United States District Judge Frank Montalvo also ordered that the defendants pay restitution in the following amounts: $4.1 million to the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD); $2,286,629.76 to the Ysleta Independent School District (YISD); and, $433,103.11 to El Paso County. Furthermore, Judge Montalvo ordered that each defendant self–surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons designated facility on or before December 18, 2013, to begin serving his prison term.
“The sentences handed down today should reassure the public that we will be relentless in pursuing those who would attempt to corrupt public officials as well as those public officials who violate their public trust for personal gain,” stated U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman.
ACCESS, among other things, was a third party administrator of healthcare benefits for self-insured entities. Between 1998 and 2007, ACCESS contracted with self-insured local (El Paso) government entities, including the County, the City and all of the local school districts, among other entities, to provide administrative services for health insurance programs provided by their employer.
Last year, both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity (RICO). By pleading guilty, Apodaca and Schwartz admitted to participating in a scheme involving ACCESS and others to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity, including mail fraud, wire fraud and bribery with elected and appointed members of the El Paso County Commissioners Court and elected Trustees of EPISD, YISD and the Socorro Independent School District to secure and retain lucrative health care management service contracts. Specifically, Schwartz admitted that he carried out schemes on behalf of Apodaca, former ACCESS CEO and President and National Center for the Employment of the Disabled (NCED) Board member; ACCESS owner and NCED CEO Robert “Bob” Jones; and, El Paso attorney Luther Jones to pay bribes to elected officials, including former Socorro ISD Trustees Raymundo “Ray” Rodriguez, Guillermo “Willie” Gandara, Sr., and Charles “Charlie” Garcia; former YISD Trustees Linda Chavez and Mickey Duntley; former EPISD Trustee Salvador “Sal” Mena; former El Paso County Commissioners Elizabeth “Betti” Flores and Larry Medina; and, former El Paso County Judge Dolores Briones, for performing acts in their official capacity which benefitted ACCESS.
“The sentencing of Frank Apodaca Jr. and Marc Schwartz marks another chapter in a ten year investigation in which public confidence was betrayed by a group of elected officials and vendors who used their influence to promote their own personal greed. It also shows the continued commitment of the FBI to aggressively pursue individuals who violated the public’s trust by holding them personally accountable for their self-serving acts,” stated FBI SAC Douglas E. Lindquist.
This FBI investigation has resulted in 39 federal convictions -- 36 individuals who entered guilty pleas and three individuals who were convicted by juries.
Assistant United States Attorneys Debra Kanof and Jose Luis Gonzalez are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.