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Bribery Scandal Unveiled: Cuellar’s Inner Circle Plead Guilty

Two political strategists close to Rep. Henry Cuellar have agreed to plead guilty to conspiring with the Texas congressman to launder more than $200,000 in bribes from a Mexican bank.

The Justice Department secured the guilty pleas of Colin Strother and Florencio “Lencho” Rendon in March. Both political operatives admitted to participating in a bribery scheme that funneled more than $200,000 to the congressman and his wife, Imelda Cuellar.

Last Friday, Cuellar and his wife were indicted on charges of accepting $600,000 in bribes from the Mexican bank Banco Azteca and an oil company controlled by the government of Azerbaijan.

The allegations point to Strother’s consulting business as the conduit for these illicit payments to a shell company linked to Imelda Cuellar.

According to the plea agreements, Rendon, 73, a businessman with close ties to Cuellar, devised the scheme after hearing that Banco Azteca was having trouble doing business in the U.S. Cuellar allegedly told Rendon about the opportunity to enter into a consulting agreement with the bank.

Rendon agreed and met with Banco Azteca officials to sign off on the consulting services to be provided by Imelda Cuellar. According to the Cuellars’ indictment, Imelda “performed little or no legitimate work in exchange for the payments.”

Then they involved Strother because Rendond thought it would be a bad idea for him to pay Imelda Cuellar directly. So they contacted Strother to work with a Mexican company looking to test and certify a fuel additive for sale in the U.S., according to Strother’s plea.

Rendon told Strother that he would pay him $11,000 per month, but that he had to give $10,000 to Imelda Cuellar’s company.

Rendon made monthly payments to Strother totaling $242,000 from March 2016 through December 2017. Strother wired nearly $215,000 to Imelda Cuellar.

Strother then realized that the purpose of the payments was to funnel money to Henry Cuellar.

Now, Rendon faces up to 20 years in prison and Strother faces up to five years, but like other cooperating defendants, they could end up with lesser sentences.

The Cuellars, for their part, have denied any wrongdoing.

Henry Cuellar’s attorney, Chris Flood, said they are not worried about Strother and Rendnon pleading guilty.

“The government has a way of getting people to say things that the government wants to hear,” Flood said. “But if they stick to the truth, we’re not worried about it.”

Meanwhile, Cuellar has expressed that he is running for re-election, while his congressional district has become more competitive for the GOP. Some have worried that this indictment could cost him some voters, as progressives have blasted the Democratic Party for supporting him.

Staff
Staff
Written by RA News staff.

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