Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti, Accused of Groping, Convicted in Federal Fraud Trial
The Democratic state senator, accused of “grooming” nearly $900,000 out of a grieving mother and former client, was found guilty on 11 federal charges.
Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti—who stands publicly accused of sexually harassing multiple women—was found guilty Thursday on multiple federal fraud charges.
Over four weeks, the lawmaker was painted by prosecutors as a man desperate for money, who lured investors into supporting frac sand company FourWinds Logistics, which eventually fell apart over a combination of lies and debt, according to several local news outlets. Prosecutors argued that Uresti callously “groomed” nearly $900,000 out of a grieving mother and former client by using his sexual relationship with her to convince her to invest.
The 54-year-old San Antonio Democrat was on trial for 11 felony charges—including money laundering, wire fraud, and securities fraud—over his alleged part in the now-bankrupt company’s Ponzi scheme. He was found guilty on all charges Thursday.
Uresti’s lawyers, meanwhile, portrayed the career politician as foolish, negligent and unaware of the company’s misdeeds, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
The lawmaker reportedly stood stoic as the verdict was read, accompanied by his wife, Lleana.
The courtroom was reportedly packed with supporters, unhappy constituents, and victims of his alleged manipulations.
During a press conference after the trial, Uresti said he had no immediate plans to step down from his seat, adding that he plans to “absolutely” appeal the jury’s decision, according to the Texas Tribune.
Whether he steps down or not, the 11 felony charges would render Uresti ineligible to serve as a state lawmaker if upheld on appeal.
Uresti and his co-defendant, Gary Cain, were both accused of lying to potential investors so that FourWinds could allegedly use the newly obtained money to pay out earlier investors, according to the San Antonio Business Journal.
(Former CEO Stan Bates and Chief Operating Officer Shannon Smith previously pleaded guilty to their parts in the now-defunct company.)
Uresti represented Denise Cantu as a personal injury lawyer when her 4-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter were killed in a 2010 vehicle accident. After Cantu won the wrongful-death suit, Uresti “became her confidant, he became her adviser, her dear friend, and it became sexual,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Blackwell claimed. Uresti has, all the while, denied the alleged relationship.
Uresti served as legal counsel for FourWinds and owned a one percent share in the company, prosecutors have said. He has consistently denied all of the charges.
Cantu—at Uresti’s urging—invested nearly $900,000 in FourWinds and lost all but $100,000 of that amount went it went bankrupt in 2015.
Over several days on the witness stand, Cantu reportedly testified that she and Uresti had sex in his office and that the legislator told her not to cooperate with FBI agents when they began looking into the company.
Earlier this month, the San Antonio Current’s Alex Zielinski wrote a column decrying the sexism on display at the month-long trial from the all-male defense and prosecution—and from the press more generally.
Both sides, she wrote, framed Cantu “into the easy, outdated role of a vindictive, plotting and promiscuous younger woman.”
“Cantu having consensual sex with two men during the same period of time has only been a headline-grabbing red herring,” Zielinski wrote.
After reportedly calling 23 witnesses, Blackwell painted Cantu in closing arguments as an “emotionally shattered young lady that Uresti exploited for his own financial gain.”
“This isn’t lottery $$$,” Cantu reportedly texted Uresti on June 22, 2016. “Yall took BLOOD MONEY, MY KIDS BLOOD MONEY, so whoever is in on this scheme will be judge by the good man above.”
“What scheme?” Uresti replied, according to the Express-News. The text messages were displayed in court.
Uresti’s defense attorneys wrapped up their case on Tuesday, apparently declining to call on the lawmaker or—any of the other politicians they had previously submitted as possible witnesses on his behalf.
Attorney Tab Turner told jurors that the case lacked any proof that Uresti knew about the company’s illegal dealings.
“Carelessness, negligence, foolishness,” Turner reportedly said in court. “The law says you have to have criminal intent.”
The trial comes just a few months after The Daily Beast first reported that multiple women accused Uresti of repeatedly ogling them, making lewd comments, and of sending them inappropriate messages. One young reporter even said Uresti put his hands on her thigh and “put his tongue down my throat.”
Uresti denied all of those allegations to The Daily Beast in December, calling them “unfounded” and “erroneous.”