Former State Sen. Carlos Uresti sentenced to 12 years in prison
Uresti found guilty of 11 felonies related to fraud, money laundering
SAN ANTONIO – Disgraced former State Senator Carlos Uresti was sentenced to 12 years in prison and three years supervised release Tuesday after an hours-long sentencing.
Federal judge David Ezra ruled that Uresti could remain free on bond until the conclusion of his federal bribery charge out of Reeves County. That trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 28, but could change.
"I respect the decision, but I don't agree with it," Uresti told reporters following the court hearing, adding that he will appeal the sentence.
In February, Uresti was convicted on 11 fraud and money laundering charges.
Uresti's attorney, Michael McCrum, posed 24 objections to a pre-sentencing report that would help establish the guidelines for Ezra to sentence from, however, Ezra only sustained a handful of the objections, mostly relating to the restitution amount.
Uresti was ordered to repay $6,345,441 restitution to his victims along with a $1,100 special assessment -- $100 for each of his 11 charges.
Uresti fought back tears as he addressed the court on Tuesday, saying several times that there was no one to blame but himself for the situation.
“I’ll lose my office, my home, and all of my possessions, but most importantly, I’m losing my family and that’s something I cannot replace," Uresti told the court.
Prosecutor Joseph Blackwell asked Ezra to go with a guideline sentence to send a message that no one is above the law.
“The defendant is here today because he deserves to be here today,” Blackwell said.
Prior to delivering his sentence, Ezra likened Uresti's trajectory to his own.
"I am faced with having to sentence a man who, in many ways, whose life parallels my own. We both came from working parents -- somewhat humble beginnings. We both worked our way through school. We both graduated from law school -- the same law school. We both served as military officers. And we both knew a man named Frank Tejeda. He sadly died too young."
Uresti and Gary Cain were convicted of running a Ponzi scheme through a company called FourWinds Logistics, a business that sold fracking sand.
Investors said they gave the business thousands of dollars after they were promised big returns, but the company never delivered.
Uresti, Cain and a third man, Stanley Bates, profited off the victims.
"One of the saddest parts — the most debilitating parts — Mr. Uresti used his status as a State Senator of this great state to be purloined by Mr. Bates," Ezra said. "To package this as a legitimate investment when it should’ve been clear to him — and it was clear to him — that it was a fraud.”
Prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Uresti to at least 17 1/2 years behind bars, but Uresti asked that his military and community service be considered in his sentencing. Ezra said he considered Uresti's sentencing memorandum and decided on 12 years, but Uresti said he will appeal the sentence.
Since his February conviction, Uresti's wife filed for divorce. He also surrendered his license to practice law. Just last week, Uresti resigned his seat in the Texas Senate -- a position he has held since 2006. Uresti's twin brother, Lorenzo Uresti, said that's punishment.
Eight people, including Uresti's brother, Tomas Uresti, are running in a special election to fill the disgraced senator's seat.
More of what Uresti and McCrum said about the ruling:
“My message to anybody is when you're right, you never give up,” Uresti said.
“I don't know that it's actually hit me yet. I don't feel, if anything, that I should be going prison," Uresti said.
"At worst, the government proved that he should have known some things, but you should never send a man to prison because he should have known something," McCrum said.
More of what the prosecutors are saying about the ruling:
"Ms Denise Cantu — and if you haven't heard her story, it's really tragic ... she lost her children. She went to Mr .Carlos Uresti to be her attorney, and he abused and used that relationship to basically defraud her of the money she gained through this most horrific of circumstances," said Joe Blackwell, assistant U.S. attorney.
“That was a fair sentence, and it really sends a message, as the judge says that it doesn't matter who you are. You're held to the same standard of justice as every other citizen of this country," said John Bash, U.S. attorney.
Former state Sen. Carlos Uresti will be in federal court on Tuesday for sentencing in his fraud case.
Uresti and Gary Cain were both convicted in February of a Ponzi scheme involving the company FourWinds, a fracking company that duped investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A third man, Stanley Bates, also profited off the victims.
Uresti was found guilty of 11 total felonies: six counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to launder money instruments, one count of engaging in monetary property, two counts of securities fraud and one count of acting as an unregistered securities broker.
Following his conviction, Uresti surrendered his license to practice law and resigned from the Texas Senate on June 21.
On Monday, Uresti asked for leniency in a 36-page memorandum, hoping the judge will consider his "good and just outcomes that he accomplished for his community". According to court documents, prosecutors intend to ask the judge to sentence Uresti to at least 17.5 years in prison.
Additionally, prosecutors have previously said Uresti may also owe up to $3 million in restitution to his victims. Uresti's sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
This is a developing story. Stay with KSAT 12 both online and on-air for more information.
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