McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Three men, including the former Hidalgo County commissioner, were sentenced Wednesday for their roles in a bribery conspiracy, federal prosecutors said.
Former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar Jr., 69, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Texas.
The office, part of the Department of Justice, stated that Ricardo Quintanilla, 57, was sentenced to 16 and a half years in prison, and John F. Cuellar, 60, was sentenced to three years in prison.
Arturo Cuellar and Quintanilla agreed to bribe his cousin John Cuellar and Gerardo Tafolla, two Weslaco commissioners, in exchange for “official actions favorable to engineering companies seeking large contracts for the city,” prosecutors said.
“From approximately March 2008 through December 2015, one of the participants in the scheme received approximately $4.1 million from two engineering companies and shared nearly $1.4 million with Arturo Cuellar,” the USAO stated.
Arturo Cuellar used the company under his control to facilitate a payment of $405,000 in bribes to John, while disguising them as legal expenses, the USAO said.
In exchange, John took actions that benefit the company, including awarding a $38.5 million contract to “rehabilitate Weslaco’s water treatment facilities,” prosecutors said.
Arturo Cuellar was convicted on 61 total counts, including 27 counts of money laundering and 27 counts of Travel Act violations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Quintanilla was convicted on 15 counts, and John Cuellar pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.
Gerardo Tafolla pleaded guilty in April 2019, and his sentencing is scheduled for a later date, records indicate.