Cris Feldman Battles Alleged Fraud in Rio Grand Valley by David Fuentes

Originally Published by The Monitor

Allegations of money laundering sparked fiery new court documents filed Wednesday in A.C. Cuellar Jr.’s lawsuit against David Fuentes, who unseated Cuellar as the Hidalgo County Precinct 1 commissioner in the March 2016 Democratic Primary.

Houston-based Feldman & Feldman added Weslaco attorney and developer Ezequiel “Zeke” Reyna Jr. as a defendant in Cuellar’s suit. The amended petition, which was originally filed in October, accuses Reyna of laundering money through Fuentes’ personal checking account to help fund the latter’s campaign.

The original petition alleged that Fuentes failed to include in his campaign finance report $400,000 in personal finances loaned to himself. Wednesday’s amendment now identifies Reyna, who is related to Fuentes, as an alleged “significant source of these funds” by direct contribution and as a guarantor of loans.

“Defendant Fuentes, therefore, failed to accurately and transparently report the true underlying source of the loans in question, and Defendant Reyna actively conspired with Defendant Fuentes to move funds between accounts to avoid disclosure,” the amended petition reads. “In sum, defendants laundered campaign cash through the personal checking account of Fuentes.”

Cris Feldman, the attorney representing Cuellar in the suit, called this money “secret cash.”

“Mr. Fuentes won the March 1, 2016 Primary against Mr. Cuellar, my client, but what we discovered during the course of our litigation is that secret cash was funneled into the election from Mr. Fuentes’ uncle, Ezequiel Reyna, directly to Mr. Fuentes, who then ‘loaned’ the money to himself,” Feldman said in a prerecorded video statement. “The true source of the funds was never disclosed, and it turns out other members of Mr. Fuentes’ family did the same thing, but most notably Ezequiel Reyna did. As a result, they conspired to violate the Texas Election Code by secretly channeling money into the election without disclosing the true source.”

Additional allegations include Fuentes’ use of the Tierra Santa Golf Club, which public records show to be owned by Reyna, between 2015 and 2016 also going unreported as in-kind contributions. Cuellar’s attorneys further charge that private investigators working for Fuentes during early voting and on the day of the primary, as well as a campaign office located at 709 Angelita Drive in Weslaco, are not listed as either expenditures or in-kind contributions.

Fuentes directed questions to his attorney, Edmundo Ramirez, who called the allegations “sensationalism” and “sour grapes” over Cuellar losing the election.

“Other than it’s nonsense and that everything is properly reported, I have no comment,” Ramirez said.

Reyna “vehemently denies” the accusations and expressed plans to file a countersuit against Cuellar.

“It’s totally unsubstantiated — just pure allegations and there’s not one set of facts in that petition,” Reyna said. “It’s just nonsensical. It’s totally wrong and inappropriate what they did and how they did it. … There’s not one fact in the petition because they don’t exist.”

A trial by jury has been requested by Cuellar, who is seeking $1 million in monetary relief. Citing Texas Election Code 254.231, the amended petition stated that liquidated damages sought are twice the amount of allegedly unreported in-kind contributions and expenditures, as well as attorney’s fees.