Feds: Uresti preyed on grieving mother to invest in FourWinds

Prosecutors lay out case against state senator, co-defendant

By Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - State Sen. Carlos Uresti pushed a client to invest large portions of a settlement she received in a wrongful death lawsuit, federal prosecutors claimed Monday as they laid out their felony fraud case against the San Antonio lawmaker.

Uresti supporters, including his wife, took up several rows of seats inside the packed courtroom on the third floor of the John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse.

The Democratic lawmaker, who faces 11 felony charges, is accused of convincing Denise Cantu, who he had represented in a wrongful death lawsuit, to invest the bulk of her settlement in FourWinds.

Uresti's co-defendant, Gary Cain, faces nine felony charges, and is being tried alongside the veteran member of the Texas Legislature.

Opening statements were delayed after the judge's microphone wouldn't work.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Blackwell portrayed Uresti as a person with financial problems who saw FourWinds as a way to make large sums of money.

The fracking sand company, which has since gone bankrupt, was originally formed to buy and resell sand used in oil field operations.

Prosecutors contend that within weeks of the company's formation, the head of information technology for FourWinds altered a bank statement to inflate the company's worth by more than $18 million.

FourWinds hired office staff and printed out promotional material, but it had difficulty acquiring contracts to actually buy fracking sand, prosecutors said.

Money taken in from investors was later used to partially pay back a doctor, who had provided much of the company's startup money, Blackwell said.

Although the names of dozens of possible character witnesses were submitted by defense attorneys, senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra said far fewer witnesses will be allowed to testify.

Four people tied to FourWinds, including former CEO Stan Bates, have already pleaded guilty.

Bates' attorney was in court Monday, and prosecutors previously said Bates was on their list of witnesses.

The jury, including four alternates, is made up of 10 women and six men.

The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.

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