SAN ANTONIO – State Sen. Carlos Uresti “emphatically and on numerous occasions violated the law” in soliciting investors for a failed oil-field services company, federal prosecutors said on Monday.
On the opening day of his fraud trial, the San Antonio Democrat was accused of profiting from a scheme “born in loss and tragedy,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Blackwell.
Uresti’s attorney, Michael McCrum, rebutted the government’s 22-count indictment, saying the legislator “didn’t know what the inner circle knew about FourWinds Logistics.”
“In a criminal trial, the standard is not what he should have known. (Uresti) never asked to see the books. He had no access to the bank accounts,” McCrum told the jury in opening arguments.
Saying his client was “used” by FourWinds CEO Stan Bates, McCrum said there was “no evidence of intent to defraud” on Uresti’s part.
Uresti, who collected $115,000 for 7 and a half months of work as the firm’s outside general counsel and investment recruiter, faces millions of dollars in fines and up to 20 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Blackwell said Uresti, 54, preyed on Denise Cantu, 38, whom he represented in a wrongful-death lawsuit involving two of her children. After winning a multimillion-dollar settlement, Cantu invested $900,000 in FourWinds on Uresti’s recommendation. She lost all but about $100,000.
“This is an important case for the United States and the victims,” Blackwell declared.
Noting Uresti’s 21 years as a politician and society’s heightened sensitivity to sexual-harassment issues, McCrum said his client “starts this case from behind.”
“There’s a sense of nervousness is the air, a feeling of angst,” McCrum said, noting the presence of three federal prosecutors and the packed courtroom gallery.
“You never see that here,” the attorney said of federal trials in San Antonio.
While asserting that Uresti “earned his money” at FourWinds, McCrum assailed Bates for using FourWinds as a “piggy bank.”
Salacious texts and allegations of sexual relations involving Cantu and Bates have added to FourWinds’ financial intrigue. Cantu has also claimed she had sex with Uresti, a charge he has denied.
Expressing concern that Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain, a company consultant, were teaming up against him, Bates pleaded guilty before the trial.
He and other FourWinds employees who have entered into plea deals are listed as prosecution witnesses. They are scheduled for sentencing this spring.
Kenric Ward can be reached at [email protected]