Former Weslaco city commissioner sentenced in water plant bribery scheme

3 months 2 days 15 minutes ago Thursday, November 30 2023 Nov 30, 2023 November 30, 2023 5:21 PM November 30, 2023 in News - Local

A former commissioner for the city of Weslaco was sentenced Thursday to 30 months in prison after pleading guilty to a multi-million dollar bribery scheme involving improvements on a water treatment plant in Weslaco.

Gerardo Tafolla, 57, was among several individuals indicted on charges of offering and accepting bribes when Weslaco city leaders began awarding construction contracts to rebuild their water treatment facilities in 2008.

Tafolla pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in connection with the scheme in 2019, court records show. 

Former Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar, his uncle — former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar — Rio Grande City attorney Daniel Garcia and businessman Ricardo Quintanilla were among those named in the 2019 indictment that laid out the scheme.

From March 2008 through December 2015, one of the participants in the scheme received approximately $4.1 million from two engineering companies, and shared nearly $1.4 million with Arturo Cuellar, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Arturo Cuellar then used a company he controlled to facilitate the payment of approximately $405,000 in bribes to his cousin, which were disguised as legitimate legal expenses, the release stated.

“In exchange for these payments, John Cuellar took several official actions to benefit the companies, including helping to award contracts worth approximately $38.5 million to rehabilitate Weslaco’s water treatment facilities,” the release added. “Quintanilla received approximately $85,000 during the course of the scheme and used that money to pay cash bribes to Tafolla for his official actions to benefit the companies that received the water treatment plant contracts.”

Arturo Cuellar and Quintanilla were convicted for their roles in the bribery scheme in October 2022, and were later sentenced to 20 years and 16 years in prison, respectively.

John Cuellar was sentenced to three years in prison after previously pleading guilty in August 2019.

Tafolla’s prison sentence will be followed by a year of supervised release, court records show. 

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