Rep. Henry Cuellar Indicted on Bribery and Money Laundering Charges

Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife Imelda have been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. The couple allegedly accepted $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijani oil company and a Mexican bank in exchange for influencing US foreign policy.

Wojciech Zylm
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Rep. Henry Cuellar Indicted on Bribery and Money Laundering Charges

Rep. Henry Cuellar Indicted on Bribery and Money Laundering Charges

Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, have been indicted on federal conspiracy, charges of conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering. The 54-page indictment, unsealed in Houston on Friday, accuses the couple of accepting approximately $600,000 in bribes from an oil company owned by the government of Azerbaijan and a bank headquartered in Mexico City.

Why this matters: The indictment of a high-ranking US official highlights the ongoing struggle to combat corruption and maintain the integrity of the political system. The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the public's trust in government and the ability of lawmakers to effectively represent their constituents.

According to the us, charged, unlawful, foreign, influence Department of Justice, the alleged bribery scheme took place from December 2014 to November 2021. In exchange for the bribes, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to use his office to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Azerbaijan and to influence legislative activity and advise high-ranking U.S. Executive Branch officials regarding measures beneficial to the Mexican bank.

The indictment alleges that the bribe payments were laundered through a series of sham consulting contracts, front companies, and middlemen into shell companies owned by Imelda Cuellar. Prosecutors claim that Imelda Cuellar performed little to no legitimate work under these contracts. The couple allegedly used the proceeds from the bribery schemes to pay off debts and make purchases for their family, including $58,000 in credit card payments, $11,000 in car payments, $18,000 at wholesale stores, and $12,000 for a custom gown.

The Cuellars face multiple charges, each carrying potential prison sentences of up to 20 years. These charges include conspiracy to commit bribery of a federal official, bribery of a federal official, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, violating the ban on public officials acting as agents of a foreign principal, conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering, and money laundering.

Congressman Cuellar has denied the allegations, stating, "We are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas." He claimed to have sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee and a national law firm before taking any action. Cuellar has vowed to continue campaigning for re-election in November.

The article congressman's ties to Azerbaijan began in 2013 when he and his wife traveled to Istanbul and Baku on a trip sponsored by an organization led by a Houston resident. The groups receive funding from the energy company owned by the government of Azerbaijan. Cuellar's home and campaign office in Laredo were raided by the FBI in January 2022 as part of a federal investigation related to Azerbaijan.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries' spokesperson, Christie Stephenson, stated that Cuellar is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence throughout the legal process. However, Cuellar will take a leave of absence from his post on a homeland security subcommittee while the case continues.

The indictment of Congressman Henry Cuellar marks the second high-profile corruption case involving aexpected, democraticU.S. lawmaker in recent months, following the charges against Senator Bob Menendez, also a Democrat. As the investigation unfolds, the fate of Cuellar's congressional seat could have implications for the partisan control of the House, with the upcoming November elections determining the balance of power in the closely divided chamber.

Key Takeaways

  • Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and his wife indicted on conspiracy, bribery, and money laundering charges.
  • Allegedly accepted $600,000 in bribes from Azerbaijan oil company and Mexican bank.
  • Bribes were laundered through sham contracts and used for personal expenses.
  • Cuellars face up to 20 years in prison on each of multiple charges.
  • Cuellar denies allegations, vows to continue campaigning for re-election.