Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra in San Antonio this week sentenced former state Sen. Carlos Uresti to 12 years in prison for his role in a fraud and money laundering scheme.
Ezra also ordered Uresti, who resigned from the Texas Senate nine days ago, to pay $6.3 million in restitution to the victims of FourWinds Logistics, an oil field services company for which Uresti served as general counsel.
The judge allowed Uresti to remain free on bond as he awaits trial later this year on a bribery charge related to the investment scheme, the San Antonio Express News reported late Tuesday.
Uresti was contrite as Ezra sentenced him but later told reporters he intends to appeal a sentence he doesn’t believe was fair. “I don’t believe so. My family doesn’t believe so and my legal team doesn’t believe that 12 years is just and fair,” the Express News reported.
“There’s no one to blame but me,” Uresti said before the sentencing. “All my life I had direction and purpose. I lost that direction and purpose. Instead, I followed opportunity. I truly feel remorseful, ashamed, disappointed, disgraced, angry at myself and sad.”
Ezra told Uresti he “engaged in a selfish, destructive course of conduct that he knew, without a doubt, was illegal. There is no one in this great country of ours who stands above the law, A substantial sentence is warranted.”
“I think the sentence today is ridiculous, with all due respect to the judge,” Mike McCrum, Uresti’s attorney, told reporters, whom he said might be ignorant of the work Uresti did in his more than 21 years representing San Antonio in the Texas House and Senate.
That work will be carried on by one of the eight candidates running in a July 31 special election called for by Gov. Greg Abbott last week to complete Uresti’s term in office, which runs through? January 2021.
The candidates include Democrats Tomas Uresti, the former senator’s brother, who lost his bid for another term in the Texas House in March; state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, of San Antonio; former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine; and Charlie Urbina Jones, an attorney from Poteet.
Republicans include Pete Flores, beaten by Carlos Uresti in the 2016 general election; Carlos Antonio Raymond, who failed to get the Republican nomination for House District 117 in March; and Jesse Alaniz, former president of the Harlandale Independent School District board.
Tony Valdivia, a senior reporting analyst at USAA Bank, is running as a Libertarian.
Uresti announced his resignation in a letter he posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, putting to rest the question of whether he would exercise his legal right to serve in the Senate while appealing his conviction.
A federal jury in February convicted Uresti on 11 counts of money laundering and wire and securities fraud. Uresti owned a one percent share of FourWinds Logistics, as well as representing the company in what court documents called a Ponzi scheme for investors.
The case centered on Uresti’s business relationship with Denise Cantu, his mistress and victim, whose $900,000 investment was almost entirely wiped out. Cantu was not present for Uresti’s sentencing.
A few months before his conviction, Uresti had been called a serial sexual abuser by several women who dealt with him during his career in the legislature.
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].