Ex-West Texas mayor pleads guilty to corruption

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Associated Press

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 23 at 9:32 AM

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A former West Texas mayor and board trustee of a school district entered a last-minute guilty plea Monday in a federal corruption case.

Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Sr. pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting mail fraud, his attorney James Darnell said.

The former mayor of Socorro won't serve more than three and a half years in federal prison.

"As part of the plea agreement there is a cap of 3 ½ years, it could be less" Darnell told the Associated Press on Monday.

Gandara's was the last guilty plea in a group of 11 people named in a federal indictment that included charges of wire and mail fraud, deprivation of honest services and aiding and abetting to commit those felonies.

Federal investigators accused Gandara of taking a $1,000 from a representative of Access HealthSource, an insurance provider, in return for his vote to award them a contract to become the insurance provider for the Soccoro school district. The money was intended as a contribution to the state House campaign of Guillermo Gandara Jr.

The district initially voted to give the contract to Access but the decision was later revised and the contract was awarded to a different provider.

The indictment is one of several stemming from a years-long investigation into public corruption in El Paso. Sentencing is set for Nov. 6 in federal court.

The younger Gandara was sentenced to 6½ years in prison on an unrelated drug-trafficking case.

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