SA businessman sentenced to federal prison for fraud, tax evasion

Elpidio Gongora, 47, sentenced to 4 years


SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio businessman was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison for his part in a scheme to defraud personal injury clients, evading payment of more than $1.6 million in taxes and attempting to hide assets valued at $429,000 from the bankruptcy trustee.

The U.S. Department of Justice said between 2009 and 2014, Elpidio Gongora, 47 -- who was aided and abetted by Rosa Ramirez, Juan Rodriguez and Ronald Higgins -- ran the law offices of several personal injury attorneys in San Antonio and in other cities in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico.

Gongora pleaded guilty on July 28, 2016, to mail fraud, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion, admitting that he stole money from the clients by failing to pay monies owed to them under settlement agreements or to pay obligations for medical treatment and physical therapy after committing to do so.

The DOJ said Gongora collected the proceeds of fraudulently endorsed personal injury settlement checks and then hid from attorneys that he failed to pay clients settlements to which they were entitled.

Officials said Gongora, who had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with his wife, also admitted his failure to disclose to the bankruptcy trustee that he owned personal assets, including a cabin cruiser, boat, truck, property in Elm Valley and a residence in Aransas Pass.

In addition, the DOJ said, Gongora admitted to evading paying more than $1.6 million in taxes, penalties and interest owed to the Internal Revenue Service for the years 2003-2005 and 2007-2013.

Gongora was ordered to pay $3,490,000 restitution in addition to his prison term.

Ramirez, Rodriguez and Higgins each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Higgins was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $1,490,000 restitution jointly and severally with Gongora.

Sentencing for Ramirez and Rodriguez is scheduled for June 13.


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