June 25–Federal prosecutors want a prison term ranging from 17 1/2 years to nearly 22 years for Carlos Uresti when the disgraced ex-lawmaker is sentenced Tuesday.
The amount of imprisonment proposed by prosecutors was disclosed in a sentencing memorandum filed Monday on Uresti’s behalf. The Democrat, who resigned as a state Senator last week, wants a more lenient sentence given his years of public service, but doesn’t suggest how long he should be locked up.
The document was prepared by Michael McCrum, one of Uresti’s lawyers. McCrum asked Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra to consider Uresti’s “lifetime of honorable achievements” versus a criminal conviction “involving conduct occurring over only nine months” of his life.
“The good and just outcomes that he accomplished for his community should stand as a significant mitigating force in the consideration of his ultimate sentence,” McCrum wrote in the memorandum.
Uresti, 54, is scheduled to be sentenced for his roles in a now-defunct oilfield services company. While prosecutors want a prison term of 210 to 262 months, Uresti could face up to about 200 years in prison based on federal statutes. Three lawyers who spoke with the San Antonio Express-News earlier this year expect Uresti will receive a prison term ranging from eight to 12 years. Prosecutors also expect he will owe more than $3 million in restitution to his victims, according to a March court filing.
A jury in February found Uresti guilty of 11 felonies, including wire fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in connection with his involvement in FourWinds Logistics, a San Antonio company that defrauded investors. It was established to buy and sell sand used in fracking for oil production but turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. It went bankrupt in August 2015.
Uresti served as FourWinds’ outside legal counsel, a 1 percent owner and recruited investors.
Denise Cantu, a Harlingen woman, invested $900,000 in the startup on Uresti’s recommendation. He earned a $27,000 commission, while she ended up losing $800,000. Cantu had invested proceeds from a $2.5 million legal settlement related to the deaths of two of her children in a 2010 vehicle wreck. Uresti was part of her legal team. She testified at his trial that they had a sexual relationship.
McCrum cited in the sentencing memorandum Uresti’s various accomplishments, including serving as a commissioned officer in the Marines, aiding his legal clients, his extensive charity work and his long service in the state Legislature fighting child abuse and helping fellow veterans.
The circumstances in Uresti’s criminal case offer several mitigating factors that Ezra should take into consideration at sentencing, McCrum wrote.
Uresti’s financial gain from the wrongdoing at FourWinds was “relatively small” in comparison with his co-defendants, CEO Stan Bates and consultant Gary Cain, McCrum stated. Bates pleaded guilty rather than stand trial with Uresti and Cain. The jury convicted Cain of nine felonies; his sentencing is set for Wednesday. Bates’ sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 6.
McCrum added there was a “dearth of evidence” that Uresti knew about the hundreds of thousands of dollars being misappropriated by Bates.
“Mr. Uresti didn’t receive these amounts of monies, nor engage in the lavish lifestyle that Mr. Bates did off of the investors’ monies,” the memorandum stated.
Uresti was never involved in FourWinds’ day-to-day operations and therefore was not clued into Bates’ actions, the document added. When Uresti learned of the wrongdoing, he confronted Bates. Uresti also informed the FBI of possible fraud at FourWinds in July 2015.
Lastly, McCrum noted in the memorandum that Uresti “honorably surrendered his law license” before being compelled to do so and resigned from the state Senate Thursday after more than two decades in public office.
Uresti told the Express-News last week his decision to voluntarily leave office had nothing to do with hoping the judge will look favorably on him at sentencing.
Mikal Watts, a San Antonio attorney and Uresti’s longtime friend, said in an interview last week that some 50 people had written letters to the court on Uresti’s behalf. The letters were from friends, family, former associates and clients, among others.
Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood was among them.
“I contemplated what to ask you to consider in your deliberation over the final sentencing of Mr. Carlos Uresti,” LaHood wrote the judge, according to Uresti’s memorandum. “After much thought and prayer, service came to mind. Carlos Uresti has exemplified service in his passion to protect the most vulnerable members of our community in Bexar County and throughout Texas.”
LaHood added, “I ask that you give Carlos your consideration in light of his abundant contributions to the people, especially children.”
Uresti testified in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last year that he tried to get LaHood to invest in FourWinds. LaHood never did. But he was co-chairman with Cain in a company that was hired by FourWinds.
LaHood never disclosed his connection when FourWinds investor Richard Thum alerted the DA about possible wrongdoing at the company. Thum ultimately went to the FBI, which launched an investigation.
René Peña, former district attorney for the 81st Judicial District who has known Uresti for two decades, also wrote Ezra on Uresti’s behalf.
“I believe the measure of one’s life should not be confined solely to events that led to convictions,” Peña wrote. “It’s clear to me that Carlos understands his wrong doings, regrets his conduct and wishes to be a productive member of society.”
To read the full story, see Tuesday’s front page or click here to visit our subscriber site ExpressNews.com.
Patrick Danner is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of his stories here. — firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @AlamoPD
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