Federal Grand Jury Indicts San Antonio Businessman in Tax, Mail and Bankruptcy Fraud Schemes
A San Antonio businessman stands charged by indictment with defrauding personal injury clients, evading payment of more than $1 million in taxes, and attempting to hide substantial assets from the Bankruptcy Trustee announced Acting United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.; Christopher Combs, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division; William Cotter, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge; and, Judy A. Robbins, U.S. Trustee for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas.
A 16-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury yesterday charges 46–year-old Elpidio Gongora (aka “Pete Gongora”) with five counts of mail fraud, five counts of bankruptcy fraud, one count of tax evasion and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from 2009 through 2014, Gongora operated the law offices of several personal injury attorneys in the city of San Antonio and elsewhere in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico. The indictment alleges that Gongora stole money from these attorneys and their clients by his failure to pay monies owed to clients under settlement agreements or pay obligations for medical treatment and physical therapy after committing to do so. To carry out his scheme, the indictment alleges that Gongora and his co-actors fraudulently endorsed personal injury settlement checks and would hide from the attorneys his failure to pay the clients their full case settlement proceeds.
In 2013, Gongora and his wife filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the Western District of Texas. The indictment alleges that, in relation to that filing, Gongora failed to disclose to the Bankruptcy Trustee that he owned personal assets that included a 33-foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser; a 29-foot 2005 Seaswirl boat; a 2005 Ford F-150 truck; real property located on Elm Valley in San Antonio; and, a residence located in Aransas Pass, TX.
The indictment further alleges that Gongora willfully attempted to evade paying over $1 million in taxes owed to the Internal Revenue Service for calendar years 2003 through 2005 and 2007 through 2013.
Gongora remains in federal custody following his arrest at the San Antonio International Airport last month. Upon conviction, each mail fraud count is punishable by imprisonment up to 20 years; bankruptcy fraud, up to five years; tax evasion, up to five years; and, aggravated identity theft, a term of two years.
These charges resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the U.S. Trustee’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Bud Paulissen is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.