State Sen. Carlos Uresti touted a “no-risk” investment opportunity to a grieving mother while raking off fees and having sex with her, the woman testified Thursday.
Denise Cantu told a U.S. District Court jury that the San Antonio Democrat called Four Winds Logistics the “perfect” deal with a guaranteed return. Uresti’s sales pitches were punctuated, she said, with adult texts and sex in his office while he groomed her for a $900,000 buy-in.
Four Winds, which purchased and sold sand for fracking, went bankrupt less than two years later. Cantu lost all but $100,000 of her investment.
Uresti is standing trial on 11 counts of wire fraud and other felonies stemming from his work as general counsel and investment finder for the company. If convicted on all charges, the veteran lawmaker could be liable for millions of dollars in penalties and up to 20 years in prison.
Cantu, of Harlingen, is the government’s chief witness. She invested in Four Winds after Uresti represented her in a wrongful death case involving two of her children.
“He helped me with the burial of my children. I couldn’t have done it without him,” Cantu testified. The 38-year-old woman also came to rely on Uresti, 54, for financial advice while engaging in a sexual relationship with him.
“I knew he was married,” Cantu told the court. “He was my friend and lover. I trusted his advice.”
Cantu admitted that she also had sex with Four Winds CEO Stan Bates. She had previously denied both affairs, saying she was “ashamed” and didn’t want her oldest son to know. Cantu also said she had a boyfriend at the time.
Bates pleaded guilty last month to multiple counts of securities fraud and money laundering after concluding that Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain were teaming up to pin the government’s allegations on him.
On Uresti’s advice, Cantu pulled money from her other investments, incurring $70,000 in early withdrawal fees, to buy into Four Winds. She said she thought Uresti was also an investor, which he was not. She said she did not know until months later that the senator received payments from her investment, with a take of up to 20 percent.
When Cantu’s monthly checks stopped, she became suspicious and asked for her money back. Independently, she discovered that the bank account Four Winds set up for her investment had been closed after it was overdrawn.
Uresti’s defense team, which will cross-examine Cantu on Friday, has called her a liar. His attorneys maintain that the senator was not privy to the inner workings and sketchy finances of Four Winds.
Cantu is currently incarcerated on assault charges unrelated to the Uresti case. Because those charges are not connected to the Four Winds trial, Judge David Ezra has barred any mention of Cantu’s legal status in court. She appeared Thursday in a prim black dress and white blouse.
Uresti’s finances are an open book, however, and prosecutors portray the senator as desperate for cash.
Carol Mace, a criminal investigator for the Internal Revenue Service, testified on Wednesday that Uresti racked up more than $5,400 in overdraft charges for bounced checks on his personal and law firm bank accounts from 2012 to 2015. During that period, Uresti bought a new home in Helotes appraised at $2 million and purchased a $77,000 Porsche.