Texas State Senator Carlos Uresti, who was accused of sexually assaulting and groping several women, was found guilty today on several federal fraud charges.
Over the month-long trial, the Democrat lawmaker was painted by state prosecutors as a man who was desperate for cash. He lured several investors to investing in a frac sand company called FourWinds Logistics. The company eventually fell apart due to lies and excessive debt, according to several media reports. Prosecutors alleged that Uresti obtained $900,000 from a grieving mother and ex-client by using his sexual relationship with her to get her to invest money.
The 54 year-old Uresti was on trial on 11 felony charges including wire fraud, money laundering and securities fraud for his alleged role in the bankrupt company’s Ponzi scheme. He has been found guilty of all charges.
Uresti’s lawyers stated in court that the long time politician was foolish and negligent but unaware of the misdeeds of the company, the San Antonio Express News reported. The lawmakers stood quietly and without emotion while the verdict was read. His wife Lleana was with him. The courtroom was full of supporters, angry constituents and victims of his crimes. As Uresti left the courtroom, he hugged and shook hands from a line of family members. Many of them were crying. The family and his attorneys gathered in the hallway for several minutes after the trial.
During a press conference after the federal trial, Uresti stated he did not plan to step down from his seat and would appeal the decision of the jury. Whether he chooses to step down or not, the felony charges would make him ineligible to serve as a lawmaker in Texas if the conviction is upheld. He also will be disbarred. Further, he could face up to 100 years in federal prison and millions in fines.
The Texas Senate Democratic Caucus has called upon Uresti to resign his seat immediately. Also, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who presides over the state senate, stated he would strip the lawmaker of his committee assignments.
Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain were accused of lying to investors so that FourWinds could use new money to pay off old investors. Ex-CEO Stan Bates and COO Shannon Smith recently pleaded guilty for their parts in the bankrupt company.
Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Uresti used his reputation to give credibility to a company that was totally unknown. Several investors stated that Uresti’s involvement made them think that their money was safe.
Alleged Affair With Grieving Mother
Uresti was a personal injury attorney for Denise Cantu when her four year old son and 13 year old daughter died in a car accident in 2010. After Cantu won her wrongful death settlement, Uresti was her confidant, adviser, friend and eventual sexual partner, according to Assistant US Attorney Joseph Blackwell. Uresti has denied the sexual nature of the relationship. Uresti also served as legal counsel for FourWinds and he oned one percent of the company.
Cantu, after encouraging by Uresti, invested almost $900,000 of her wrongful death settlement in FourWinds. She lost all but $100,000 of it and the company went bankrupt in 2015.
Over several days of testimony, Cantu reportedly stated that she and Uresti had sexual relations in his office. The legislator allegedly told her to not speak with FBI agents when they started looking at the company.
Last month, a San Antonio journalist Alex Zielinski wrote a column that pointed out the ‘sexism’ that was on display from the all-male prosecution and defense and from the press. She said Cantu was framed into being the plotting, vindictive and trashy younger woman in the case. She said that Cantu having consensual sex with two men during the same time frame has been repeated many times in the news.
After calling two dozen witnesses, the state prosecutor painted Cantu as a shattered woman who lost her children, who Uresti exploited financially and emotionally for his gain.
Cantu reportedly texted Uresti in June 2016 that the money that was taken was not lottery money. It was money that was given to her in a legal settlement for the deaths of her children. She said it was ‘blood money,’ and whoever profited from the alleged Ponzi scheme would face judgment from God. She also said during the trial that she did not know he would make a $27,000 commission on the investment and get part of her profits.
Uresti’s attorneys concluded their defense on Tuesday, and did not call on the lawmaker or other politicians to testify on his behalf. Attorney Tab Turner stated to the jury that the case did not have proof that Uresti was aware of the illegal doings of the company.
The federal fraud trial came only months after The Daily Beast reported that several women had accused the lawmaker of making lewd comments, ogling them and fondling and groping them. Uresti has denied these allegations.