EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A federal judge in West Texas sentenced three people accused of participating in a public corruption scheme to prison terms on Tuesday and gave a fourth defendant probation.
The U.S. attorney's office said Judge Frank Montalvo sentenced El Paso attorney David Escobar and former Ysleta School District board member Milton Duntley to three years and five months in prison for their role in a scheme to fraudulently give more than $100 million in health insurance contracts to other defendants. Escobar also must pay a $10,000 fine and $42,077 in restitution.
The two were part of an indictment involving 11 public officials and lawyers from the El Paso area. Prosecutors say public officials were bribed with money, campaign contributions and other favors like providing jobs for their relatives in exchange their support for giving ACCESS, a third party health insurance administrator, more than $100 million in contracts in El Paso County and the El Paso, Ysleta and Socorro school districts.
Along with Escobar and Duntley, former county commissioner and El Paso councilmember Larry Medina received a one year and four month sentence and will pay a $100,000 fine along with $56,700 in restitution. Former Ysleta school board member Linda Chavez was sentenced to five years of probation and $9,000 in restitution.
Duntley, Escobar and Medina had been charged with racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, while Chavez was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. All four pleaded guilty last summer.
According to the indictment, Medina requested "a lot of money" from Marc Schwartz, the president of a firm specialized in acquiring businesses and handling crises. Its clients included Access. Schwartz then offered to raise $10,000 and a campaign contribution in exchange for Medina's vote on the contract, court documents say.
The indictment says Duntley was able to secure jobs for his relatives and to have part of his debt to health care providers reduced because Access agreed to make it appear as if it had insured him when the debt was incurred.
Escobar was one of the people charged with making offers and promises to Duntley. He and an associate then received kickbacks in the form of payments to a local law firm that had a contract with the Ysleta school district but did not actually perform any legal services for it, the indictment says.
Chavez was named as part of the conspiracy involving Ysleta school board members, in which authorities accused her and others of misleading and concealing facts from the district. Her lawyer, Jose Troche, said sentencing her to probation with a fine was "appropriate under the circumstances."
Messages left at the offices of the attorneys for the other defendants were not immediately returned.