DECEMBER 28, 2007
Two investment bankers who were financial advisers to nearly all government agencies in a major Texas county have pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery for their role in an ongoing public corruption scheme that has already led to the convictions of several public officials.
A year-long FBI investigation focusing on vendor kickbacks has led to serious charges against several community leaders and the convictions of three public officials, including a county chief of staff and commissioner as well as a public school board member. The El Paso officials sought bribes from vendors, received secret campaign donations, met in a bathroom restaurant and even hacked into a computer to rig court cases.
Several prominent business leaders have also been convicted, including some in charge of overseeing bond-related matters for the city and local public school districts. Among them is the vice president of a renowned architectural firm who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud for trying to illegally influence an El Paso Independent School District trustee by giving the trustee $25,000.
Among the public officials convicted is the chief of staff for a county judge (John Ketner) who pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy and bribery, a county commissioner (Betti Flores) who pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy for selling her votes as a commissioner for cash and an El Paso School District trustee (Carlos Cordova) who admitted selling his vote on the board for money from vendors seeking school contracts.
Numerous other county commissioners have been implicated and are being federally investigated in the widespread public corruption fiasco, which has the distinction of being the largest investigation that El Paso’s FBI has undertaken since the agency opened a bureau there in 1919.
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