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.

Cris Feldman of Feldman & Feldman Exposes Rio Grande Valley Campaign Scandal

Originally Published by CBS 4 (KGBT-TV)

Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, represented by Houston attorney Cris Feldman, filed a lawsuit against Weslaco school board president David Fuentes on Wednesday, claiming the Democratic Party primary was tainted by unreported donations and spending.

Fuentes narrowly defeated Cuellar during the Democratic Party primary in March after a hard-fought campaign to represent eastern Hidalgo County.

Cuellar filed the lawsuit Wednesday morning, claiming Fuentes failed to report campaign donations and spending.

According to the lawsuit:

10. At various times through calendar years 2015 and 2016, Defendant Fuentes hid various campaign contributions and expenditures from public scrutiny.

11. Defendant Fuentes failed to report approximately $28,000 in campaign contributions in his report ending December 31, 2015.

12. Defendant Fuentes failed to report approximately $11,000 in campaign expenditures in his report ending January 21, 2016.

13. Defendant Fuentes failed to report approximately $1,700 in campaign expenditures in his report ending February 20, 2016.

14. Defendant Fuentes failed to report approximately $55,000 in campaign expenditures and/or $55,000 in contributions received via credit card charges for good and/or services in his report ending June 30, 2016.

15. Defendant Fuentes failed to report in-kind contributions regarding the use of the Tierra Santa Golf Club on multiple dates, in both 2015 and 2016, for purposes of fundraisers. Either Defendant Fuentes paid for use of the golf course and failed to disclose it, or Defendant Fuentes received in-kind contributions of significant value that he failed to list in his campaign finance reports.

16. In the course of the campaign Defendant Fuentes allegedly loaned his campaign approximately $400,000 in personal funds. Based upon information and belief, Defendant Fuentes failed to accurately and transparently report the true underlying source of the loans in question.

Monitor newspaper reporter Naxiely Lopez first reported the lawsuit on Twitter.

The lawsuit asks the judge to award Cuellar twice the amount of unreported contributions, twice the amount of unreported spending and attorney’s fees.

Cuellar referred a request for an interview to his attorney, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Fuentes couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.