Indictment Alleges Prison Healthcare Company Bribed Texas State Senator
by Matt Clarke
In May 2017, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment accusing Texas state Senator Carlos Uresti of accepting substantial bribes from a company that provides healthcare to prisoners at the Reeves County Detention Center (RCDC) in West Texas.
Uresti allegedly received payments of $10,000 per month from the company, Physicians Network Associates (PNA), to ensure that it kept its lucrative contract to provide medical care to prisoners. RCDC, a “Criminal Alien Requirement” facility, holds federal prisoners who are non-citizens facing deportation after serving their sentences on criminal charges. It is operated by The GEO Group, a private prison contractor.
PNA was acquired by Correctional Healthcare Companies (CHC) in 2010, which then merged with Correct Care Solutions in 2014. The firm’s payments to Uresti allegedly continued through September 2016.
The company was the healthcare provider at RCDC in 2008, when Jesus Manuel Galindo was sentenced to serve 30 months, and then face deportation, after he was caught trying to swim across the Rio Grande to get back into the U.S. When he arrived at the facility, Galindo told guards he had a history of serious epileptic seizures and was not receiving the correct medication. Instead of sending him to the medical department, they put him in solitary confinement.
Galindo wrote his mother that he was having seizures in isolation and had begged guards not to leave him unmonitored. He suffered a fatal seizure alone in his cell one night in December 2008. His death touched off a riot when prisoners saw Galindo’s body being removed from the segregation unit; the disturbance, which was followed by another riot in January 2009, caused $1 million in damage to the facility. [See: PLN, Feb. 2010, p.22].
The ACLU helped Galindo’s family sue PNA for denying RCDC prisoners basic medical care. Meanwhile, federal prosecutors contended the company continued to bribe Senator Uresti under the guise of calling the $10,000 monthly payments a “consulting fee.” Uresti allegedly served as a middleman, funneling half the money to Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo (not related to Jesus Galindo), who pushed PNA’s contract through the commissioner’s court before he left office.
Also named in the federal indictment was Vernon C. Farthing III, former president of PNA. After the company’s acquisition by Correctional Healthcare Companies in 2010, Farthing remained on the firm’s payroll. He also stayed on the payroll of Correct Care Solutions, which said it was “cooperating fully” with investigators in the case. Both Farthing and Senator Uresti are accused of one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. See: United States v. Uresti, U.S.D.C (W.D. Tex.), Case No. 5:17-cr-00381-DAE.
A separate, unrelated federal indictment accused Uresti of six counts related to wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud, being an unregistered securities broker and three money laundering-related counts. Prosecutors alleged the senator used his reputation and political influence to help create a Ponzi investment scheme, setting up a company called FourWinds Logistics to buy and sell sand used in hydraulic fracking operations to produce oil.
The company defrauded millions of dollars from its investors – including a client of Uresti’s law firm, Denise Cantu, who said she lost most of a wrongful death judgment when she invested $900,000 in FourWinds while she was having a sexual affair with Uresti. Cantu was reportedly a key witness against the senator.
Three officials at FourWinds who pleaded guilty to charges related to the Ponzi scheme agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. One of Uresti’s co-defendants, FourWinds CEO Stan Bates, abruptly pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges just before the case went to trial in January 2018. Senator Uresti – who has also been accused of sexual harassment at the Texas state capitol – denied that he knew about the Ponzi scheme run by other company officials.
In February 2018, Uresti and a co-defendant, Gary Cain, were convicted by a federal jury on all counts in the FourWinds case. They remain free on bond until their sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for June 25, 2018.
“Justice was served,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Blackwell.
Meanwhile, Senator Uresti and Farthing will go to trial on the PNA bribery charges in May 2018. Farthing is seeking a separate trial, citing “substantial prejudicial evidence” against Uresti, according to a news report. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Jimmy Galindo pleaded guilty in June 2017 to conspiracy to commit bribery and failure to file a tax return. He said he had split around $850,000 in bribes that PNA paid to Uresti. The former judge has not yet been sentenced. See: United States v. Galindo, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Tex.), Case No. 5:17-cr-00434-DAE.
Senator Uresti, who remains in office, said he will “absolutely” appeal the verdict in the FourWinds case and has no plans to resign.
Sources: www.sacurrent.com, www.kvue.com, www.foxsanantonio.com, www.texastribune.org, www.expressnews.com
Related legal case
United States v. Galindo
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (W.D. Tex.), Case No. 5:17-cr-00434-DAE|