Officials are calling it a “long-term bribery scheme over construction contracts”. Now a former border county commissioner, a former city commissioner, and a local attorney face federal fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges.
There’s already been a guilty plea by a former municipal judge in the case.
This week, former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar Jr., 65, former Hidalgo City Commissioner John Cuellar, 56, and local attorney Daniel Garcia were arrested by federal agents. They face fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office revealed.
This comes just days after Rio Grande City Municipal Judge Leo Lopez pleaded guilty to his role in the case.
Cuellar and Garcia are expected to go before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on Monday. They’ll be formally notified of the charges filed against them.
Prosecutors say the city of Weslaco’s water plant was in violation of environmental regulations and needed heavy structural projects.
Back in 2007, the city voted to issue $28 million in bonds. The money was allocated to finance the water plant projects, but it snowballed to close to $40 million.
Investigators say three companies pumped millions in bribes to the political figures in order to secure the contracts.
The money trail seems to back it. Between 2008 and 2015, Lopez received $3.7 million from multiple companies. Federal agents say the money was meant to secure the contracts.
From that money Lopez allegedly gave $1.4 million to county commissioner AC Cuellar. Prosecutors say he used a company he controls to funnel $405,000 to Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar.
The transfer of funds made it look like legitimate business expenses.
It didn’t end there. Investigators say the city politician then used his power to make sure the three construction companies got more than $38 million in contracts to rehabilitate the water plants.
According to prosecutors, $90,000 of the funds the city commissioner got from AC Cuellar and Lopez were laundered through Garcia’s lawyer trust account.
The City of Weslaco put out a press statement shortly after the arrest, saying they welcome the investigation and have been cooperating with the FBI.
According to that statement, Weslaco had already sued one of the construction companies and had gotten $1.9 million back.
In Other News…
Here are some stories you might have missed this week.
Naked Cop and Naked Criminal
It sounds like the start of a bad joke… a naked cop and a naked criminal are sitting in a sauna…
Earlier this week, a Swedish police officer arrested a guy in the sauna. Plot twist – they were both naked.
Apparently the off-duty officer was chilling in the sauna on his day off when he recognized another guy who was relaxing in it. The other man was wanted on drug and aggravated assault charges.
Apparently he didn’t let a lack of equipment stop him (or get in the way, for that matter). He took the man into custody. We’re guessing he broke quite a sweat while doing it.
“By a coincidence, and rather amusingly, they both recognized each other in the sauna,” Rinkeby deputy police chief Christoffer Bohman. “It’s easier to take action when you have your colleagues with you, and all your tools and equipment. This was as stripped-down as it gets- in more ways than one.”
Rinkeby Police praised the officer on Facebook in this post you won’t be able to read, unless you happen to speak Swedish. Or perhaps eat a lot of Swedish Fish.
“To our dear colleague who kept your head cool when it was heating up to a potentially dangerous situation, despite being on your day off and relaxing in a spa,” the post reads.“Despite finding yourself in a packed sauna with a wanted criminal, you kept your wits about you and carried out an arrest while considering the needs of all.”The post signed off: “We are everywhere. Even if you don’t see us, we are there.”
Super Pregnant Mother Ticketed For Toddler Pee
You know that cop who drops his pants to pee at the urinal? Come on – we all know “that guy”. Well chances are it was “that cop” who ticketed this pregnant woman.
Check this out. In Richmond County, Georgia, a woman was cited for “disorderly conduct” because her son had to pee.
Brooke Johns is 8 months pregnant. Her doctor has told her to take it easy. Any parent with a toddler knows how challenging that is.
Last week, she was driving in Beech Island when her toddler, Cohen, announced from the backseat that he needed to use the potty.
“He’s like, ‘Mom, I’ve got to pee. I’ve got to pee!’ I was like, ‘Well, hold on,’ and he’s like, ‘No! I’ve GOT to pee! I’ve got to REALLY pee.’ And I’m like, ‘Baby, there’s nowhere for me to go, and he says, ‘Momma, I’m about to pee in my pants!’” Johns said.
She says they barely made it into a gas station parking lot when she realized she wasn’t going to be able to get him in and onto the toilet.
“I can’t pick him up,” Johns said. “You know, I’m not supposed to lift him.”
She says instead, she tried to cover him as much as she could and he relieved himself in the parking lot.
“He was peeing before his pants were even all the way down, so obviously he had to go,” Johns said.
A Richmond County deputy happened to see it.
“Accidents happen. And he was like, ‘Take him in the bathroom.’ What if I would have ran in the bathroom and someone had been in there? What I was going to let him do? Pee on the floor of the gas station?” Johns said.
The deputy slapped her with a disorderly conduct charge.
Her ticket says, “She allowed her male child to urinate in the parking lot. I observed the male’s genitals and the urination. Public restrooms are offered at the location.”
“I’m going to court April 30,” Brooke said. “Several days before I am due. Yeah, I could extend it, but I would rather deal with it when I’m pregnant. Not when I have a newborn.”
All we can say is… WTF?
Alleged Uber Rapist Starts Crying In Court, Told To Knock It Off By Judge
On Monday, Uber driver Mayanja Daudah was in Boston Municipal Court to plead not guilty on two counts of rape.
Police say he’s accused of repeatedly raping a passenger early Saturday morning.
Throughout his arraignment, he sobbed repeatedly.
The judge had enough.
“Could you please knock it off,” Boston Municipal Court Judge Richard Sinnott told Mayanja Daudah at one point during the hearing, according to the Boston Herald.
Police say the 37-year-old father of 12 had been working as an Uber driver for just two weeks when he picked up a female passenger from a bar in Somerville.
According to reports, as he was driving her to Boston, he allegedly reached over and placed his hands down her pants. The victim says he pulled over on Storrow drive, and sexually assaulted her again.
When her phone rang, she managed to escape, according to the DA.
“The ringing of the cell phone, for whatever reason, allowed the victim to get out of the car,” Suffolk District Attorney AlexaRae Wright said during the hearing.
According to reports, a bystander saw her running by, crying hysterically with her pants unbuttoned.
Daudah insists he’s innocent and says she was on drugs.
“She said that ‘I’m ready to do anything because today’s my special day,” he said. “She was drunk, smoking marijuana, very high.”
She’s lying, he says.
“That information that aired outside is wrong and false,” he added. “She jumped from the back seat to the driver’s seat. When I pulled over, she jumped out from the car, [and] I left the scene.”
According to Daudah, he called his “bosses” immediately.
“I called my bosses because, after, I noticed that she left her bag inside my car,” Daudah continued. “I called the Uber offices to tell them about the situation.”
At about 1:15 a.m., Massachusetts State Police got a report about the alleged assault.
“About 15 to 20 minutes after calling the Uber offices, I received a call from the police,” Daudah told WCVB. “She reported to the police that somebody, the driver, tried to rape her.”
According to Daudah, he immediately drove to the MSP barracks, where he provided them with a statement. They arrested him, charged him with two counts of rape and set his bail at $100,000.
The Boston Herald reports he has no prior criminal record.
EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 37 year old Uber driver Daudah Mayanja being transferred from the state police barracks to court, for his arraignment. Mayanja is facing two counts of rape for allegedly sexually assaulting a female Uber passenger Saturday night @wbz pic.twitter.com/x6iMUG7Ep4
— MichelleReneeFisher (@Michelle_WBZ) April 1, 2019
An Uber spokesperson told local media outlets that they immediately terminated Daudah’s access to the app when they learned about what had allegedly occurred.
“What’s been reported is horrible and something no one should ever go through,” an Uber spokesperson told the news outlet. “We stand ready to support law enforcement with their investigation.”
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) originally put a detainer on the Ugandan-born citizen on Sunday. They later said he’s “not subject to removal at this time.”
“ICE will continue to monitor his criminal proceedings,” the agency said.
For now, he had to surrender his passport, and will be required to wear a GPS monitor if he is released on bail. He’s due back in court on May 1.
His defense attorney says Daudah is a widower with 12 children, including three sets of twins.
In 2017, Massachusetts launched a new background check protocol for Uber and Lyft, in response to calls from women’s groups for more extensive screening of riders.
Round one? 8,206 Massachusetts drivers using the app failed. That’s 13 percent. Of those who failed, 51 were identified as sex offenders, 958 had violent crime records and 352 had sex abuse and exploitation offenses.