State Senator Carlos Uresti’s ongoing trouble with women just got worse. A federal court jury found the San Antonio Democrat guilty of eleven counts of fraud involving allegations that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with a grieving South Texas mother as part of a plot to bilk her out of almost $900,000 in a Ponzi scheme.
The jury convicted Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain on federal fraud charges. Uresti immediately said he would appeal and declined to step down from office. Late Thursday, the Senate Democratic Caucus issued a statement urging Uresti to resign.
Immediately after his conviction, Uresti, at an impromptu news conference, said, “This is a shock to all of us. This is not the verdict we were expecting. So, I’m going to meet with my family and my wife and my attorneys, and we’ll make those decisions down the road.”
Prosecutors claimed Uresti had “groomed” Denise Cantu of Harlingen to gain her trust to invest in the scheme, a fracking company called FourWinds Logistics. Her money had come from a wrongful death lawsuit following a 2010 car wreck that claimed the lives of her son and daughter. She invested in FourWinds on Uresti’s recommendation, but he claimed he did not know the company was a fraud scheme.
Handsome and a dapper dresser, Uresti’s apparent downfall in a plot involving sex is just the latest example of his trouble with women.
A San Antonio television station in 2007 reported on a call made by Uresti’s then-wife to 911 asking for help because she said Uresti had a gun: “He’s a Senator and He Wants to Kill me.”
Yolanda Uresti, who later divorced the senator, apologized the next day, and said she made the call because she believed her husband was having an affair and wanted revenge. Uresti denied any indiscretions.
Uresti turned into minor YouTube star in 2013 when a video of him dancing with his second wife on his wedding night gained traction in the Texas news media after receiving a promotional push from then-Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst.
But another video became fodder for an opponent in the 2016 elections when footage emerged of a young, female lobbyist smooching on Uresti in a hotel bar. Uresti had won his seat in the Texas Senate more than a decade ago by defeating incumbent Frank Madla, who died several months later in a tragic house fire. Madla’s widow unsuccessfully challenged Uresti’s re-election last year, using a clip gathered by the American Phoenix Foundation in 2015 as proof that he was bad on women’s issues.
Although state law bars felons from holding elective office in Texas, that only applies after appeals are exhausted and a conviction is made final. The federal appeals process often takes one or two years. When sentencing occurs, the judge will have the discretion of allowing Uresti to stay free on bond while the case is appealed, but the judge also can order Uresti to await his fate in prison.
In the meantime, Uresti won’t have much to do in the Senate. On Thursday, Patrick announced that he was doing what he could to sideline Uresti. “As lieutenant governor, I do not have the authority to remove Sen. Uresti from the Texas Senate but I have notified his office that he will be relieved of his committee assignments, effective immediately,” Patrick said in a statement.
Uresti’s San Antonio state Senate seat will not automatically be up for election until 2020. So the question for readers is: Should Uresti be allowed to serve while he appeals, or should he resign immediately?
Correction: An earlier version of this story used a photo of state Senator Jose Menendez that was mislabeled as Carlos Uresti. The photo has been replaced. We regret the error.