State Sen. Carlos Uresti leaves San Antonio's federal courthouse after being indicted on fraud and bribery charges
A former West Texas official accused of accepting bribes in exchange for rigging a private prison contract pleaded guilty in San Antonio federal court on Monday.
That means former Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo is following through with the deal he signed with federal prosecutors last month, in which he agreed to "fully cooperate" with their investigation. In indictments unsealed last month
, the feds accused Galindo and state Sen. Carlos Uresti, a longtime San Antonio lawmaker, of taking part in a bribery scheme over a private prison contract at a West Texas detention center where inmates have rioted over squalid conditions.
Also facing criminal charges is Vernon C. Farthing III, president of Physicians Network Alliance, a company that in 2006 was awarded the multi-million dollar contract to provide healthcare for inmates at the Reeves County Detention Center, which largely houses border crossers charged with illegal re-entry. Civil rights groups have long claimed that inmates at Reeves suffer from dangerously deficient health care. In 2008, inmates rioted at the facility, setting mattresses on fire and taking staff hostage after an epileptic prisoner died from a seizure he suffered in solitary confinement after complaining that staff had withheld his anti-seizure meds.
Carl Takei, a staff attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project, told us this
when he learned of the alleged bribery scheme last month: "If the allegations in the indictment are correct, then people getting rich off this contract led directly to human suffering inside that prison."
In Galindo's plea agreement, he claims he gave PNA inside information to help the company score the lucrative contract. The feds have accused Uresti of using his law firm and consulting company, Turning Point Strategies, to "hide and cover-up this conspiracy from the taxpayers, citizens and county commissioners of Reeves County." Both Uresti and Farthing face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Lawyers for both men have said they're eager to prove their innocence in court.
Meanwhile, Uresti also faces federal securities and wire fraud charges for profiting off what prosecutors call "an investment Ponzi scheme" involving a now-defunct company that tried to bank off the South Texas oil boom by selling frac sand to oil and gas drillers.