State Sen. Carlos Uresti Appears in Court for Wire Fraud, Bribery Charges

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Sen. Carlos Uresti leaves San Antonio's federal courthouse after being indicted on fraud and bribery charges. - ALEX ZIELINSKI
  • Alex Zielinski
  • Sen. Carlos Uresti leaves San Antonio's federal courthouse after being indicted on fraud and bribery charges.
Sen. Carlos Uresti made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after it was announced that San Antonio lawmaker has indicted by a federal grand jury on 13 criminal charges.

Uresti has been charged in two different cases involving alleged bribery and wire fraud. The first questions his role in what the feds call "an investment Ponzi scheme" involving FourWinds, a now-bankrupt fracking company. Uresti, who provided legal services to the company, allegedly helped recruit FourWinds investors while maintaining a small stake in the company. The second case centers on Uresti's alleged involvement in helping a medical company land a contract with a West Texas detention center by bribing a local county judge.

If convicted on all counts, Uresti could face up to 200 years behind bars.

At the Wednesday hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad ran down the 22 total charges against Sen. Uresti and his two co-defendants in the fracking case, former FourWinds CEO Stanley Bates and company consultant Gary Cain. All three, wearing leg irons and handcuffs, were told not to contact each other before their May 31 arraignment hearing. Bemporad specifically banned Bates from drinking alcohol during this timeframe and only allowed Uresti to travel outside of Texas before the hearing. Bemporad released the three men on a $50,000 bond apiece.

Shortly after the brief hearing, Uresti told reporters he was innocent of all charges.

"I look forward to my day in court when all the facts come out and the truth and not just what's been in the press,” Uresti said, standing in front of the federal courthouse. “In the meantime, I have a job to do. I am headed back to Austin, back to the Capitol, to do what I was elected to do by the voters, and that's to fight."

His attorney, Mikal Watts, has his own history with federal fraud charges. In 2015, Watts was indicted on charges he made up fake clients in lawsuits against BP following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He was acquitted last August.

"He looks great today," Watts told reporters after the hearing."I am very confident that Carlos Uresti is an innocent man." He said that calling the charges "unfounded" is the most "polite" word to use.

Watts said the indictment won't affect Uresti's role in the Texas Senate. The San Antonio Democrat has at least two more weeks of work left at the capitol.

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