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Press Release

Three Texas Men Arrested and Charged with Bribery Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas - Three Texas men, including a former Weslaco City Commissioner and a former Hidalgo County Commissioner, were arrested today on charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick made the announcement along with Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI San Antonio Office and Acting Special Agent in Charge Sarah Kull of the IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Houston Field office.

Criminal complaints were filed today in the Southern District of Texas against former Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar, 56, of Weslaco, and former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo Cuellar Jr., 65, of Hidalgo County. They are charged with conspiring to bribe a Weslaco City Commissioner in exchange for official actions favorable to three engineering companies and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Daniel Garcia, 40, an attorney based in Rio Grande City, was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the complaint, starting in approximately March 2008, Cuellar agreed to accept bribes from three engineering companies that were funneled through Cuellar Jr. and others. Cuellar and another Weslaco City Commissioner would then allegedly take actions favorable to the three companies in relation to contracts to rehabilitate and rebuild Weslaco’s water treatment facilities. 

According to the complaint, from approximately April 2008 through December 2015, Lopez received approximately $3.7 million from two engineering companies and shared approximately $1,398,000 with Cuellar Jr. The complaint further alleges Cuellar Jr. used a company he controlled to pay Cuellar approximately $405,000 disguised as legitimate legal expenses. In exchange for these payments, Cuellar allegedly took several official actions to benefit the three construction companies, including the award of a $38.5 million contract to rehabilitate Weslaco’s water treatment plant.

The complaint further alleges Lopez and Cuellar Jr. enlisted Garcia, an attorney, to launder approximately $90,000 in bribe payments to Cuellar through Garcia’s interest on lawyers trust account.

FBI and IRS-CI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez is prosecuting the case along with Trial Attorneys Peter M. Nothstein and Jessica C. Harvey of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. 

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated April 5, 2019

Public Corruption