Friday, October 23, 2020

Witness testifies former Senator Uresti took part in bribery scheme

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A former West Texas county judge testified Friday that then-state Sen. Carlos Uresti of San Antonio agreed to split hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from a contractor.

Jimmy Galindo, who was county judge for Reeves County from 1995 to 2006, said he persuaded Lubbock businessman Vernon “Trey” Farthing III to hire Uresti as a consultant at $10,000 a month so that Farthing’s company could get a contract in 2006 to provide medical services to federal immigrant prisoners at the Reeves County Correctional Center in Pecos.

Galindo, 54, said he advised Farthing to raise the price his Physician Network Association would charge the county per inmate, per day, to pay for the consulting arrangement. The increased price came out of the county’s end.

Galindo said Uresti agreed to give him half of the $10,000 every month.

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“He was on board,” Galindo said during his daylong testimony at Farthing’s federal trial in San Antonio.

Farthing, 45, is the only one to fight the charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Galindo and Uresti have already pleaded guilty to the bribery charge. Galindo also pleaded guilty to failure to file a 2013 tax return.

Assistant U.S. attorneys Joe Blackwell and Sean O’Connell, and Farthing’s lawyers, Gerry Goldstein and Cynthia Orr, have said they do not plan to call Uresti as a witness.

The case unraveled in recent years as the FBI and IRS investigated public corruption in Texas and focused on Uresti on a number of tangents, including a case in which Uresti was involved in an oilfield services company called FourWinds Logistics. Uresti was convicted at trial earlier this year of fraud and other felonies for helping dupe people to invest millions of dollars with FourWinds, which collapsed into bankruptcy.

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As part of their investigation, federal agents approached Galindo in January 2017, and at first minimized his actions, but later agreed to cooperate.

Galindo, who made $60,000 a year as county judge, testified that he decided not to seek re-election in 2006 and began looking at his options a year earlier. At the time, he saw Uresti as an “up-and-coming” political star, and ingratiated himself with the lawmaker to do business with him.

In 2006, Reeves County officials learned about the U.S. Bureau of Prison’s plan to award contracts to detention centers to hold immigrants who were in the country illegally.

PNA had already done business with the county, and Galindo, seeing an opportunity after he left office, approached Farthing. Over a series of conversations, Galindo persuaded him to hire Uresti as a consultant at $10,000 a month, or $120,000 a year — from which Galindo could profit.

“He would pay Mr. Uresti,” Galindo said of Farthing. “With regards to funds to pay for it, it evolved over time.”

Eventually, Galindo suggested to Farthing to “raise, as we went forward, his per diem price, but don’t go over $6.”

Farthing asked during one of their conversations, “‘What about you?’” Galindo testified. “I told him don’t worry about it. I’ll work my part of the deal with Mr. Uresti.”




Galindo said he then filled in Uresti, who agreed to give Galindo half of the $10,000 monthly payment from PNA. Galindo even provided the name for Uresti’s consulting company, Turning Point Strategies.

Galindo said he took steps to cover his tracks including discussing with Uresti labeling the arrangement with Farthing as a “marketing agreement” to keep Uresti out of potential legal or ethical troubles.

According to Galindo, anytime Farthing needed help with Reeves County or the contract, he reached out to Galindo instead of Uresti.

Asked why Galindo didn’t just have Farthing pay him directly, Galindo said: “I was concealing my relationship with Mr. Farthing, by asking him to pay Mr. Uresti,” Galindo said. “I worked for Carlos. That way, but in my bad judgment, it concealed my direct link back to PNA.”

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In exchange, Galindo helped push PNA’s proposal through Commissioners Court without telling commissioners of the price increase or disclosing his behind-the-scenes arrangement with Farthing and Uresti.

Over time, Galindo said his $5,000 payment was reduced by $250 that Uresti charged him for rent for office space at Uresti’s law firm in San Antonio. Galindo said he never rented an office, though he tried, but “I was rejected.” He also said some payments to him lapsed.

Over much of the 10 years of the contract, the kickbacks amounted to more than $800,000 — money that Galindo said the county could have saved.

“I betrayed the people that I swore an oath to, and I’ve brought shame upon myself,” Galindo said, his voice cracking.

But defense lawyer Goldstein countered that PNA relied on pricing guidelines provided by the county because PNA was never at the negotiating table with the Bureau of Prisons. Farthing, Goldstein argued, offered a proposal whose pricing was nearly identical to services at other prisons where PNA had contracts at the time.

Goldstein also claimed Galindo was lying to save himself from a lengthy prison sentence, highlighting variations in two of Galindo’s five interviews with the feds, some of which were not memorialized with transcripts or recordings.

“I’m going to tell the truth whether there’s a record or not,” Galindo respondedd. “I got myself in a situation in (the first) interview that was a very tough interview, a life-changing interview. At that point, I didn’t have counsel. I minimized and was not completely truthful. I just wanted the interview to be over.”

The trial before Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra resumes Monday morning.

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