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Political Consultants Plead Guilty in U.S. Congressman’s Azerbaijani Bribe Scandal

Updated: May 9

Henry Cueller

Two political consultants have pleaded guilty to charges related to a bribery scheme involving U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, Texas. The case, which has sent shockwaves through South Texas politics, involves allegations of bribery, money laundering, and working on behalf of a foreign government.

According to court documents that were recently made public, the consultants admitted to conspiring with Rep. Cuellar to launder over $200,000 in bribes from a Mexican bank. This cooperation is part of a broader investigation by the Justice Department into Cuellar, who, along with his wife Imelda, faces charges of accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from sources including Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank.

The indictment details how Cuellar allegedly influenced the Treasury Department to favor the Mexican bank by working around certain anti-money laundering policies that threatened the bank’s interests. Cuellar reportedly enlisted the help of his former campaign manager, Colin Strother, and another consultant, Florencio "Lencho" Rendon, to manage these illicit payments.

Both Strother and Rendon have struck plea deals with the Justice Department, agreeing to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. They face potential sentences of up to 20 years in prison and significant fines for their roles in the conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The scheme reportedly began in February 2016 when Cuellar asked Strother to collaborate with Rendon on a project supposedly to test and certify a fuel additive for sale in the U.S. According to the plea agreements, Rendon paid Strother $11,000 monthly for this project, $10,000 of which was then transferred to Imelda Cuellar. From March 2016 to December 2017, Strother received a total of $242,000 from Rendon, passing nearly $215,000 of it to Imelda Cuellar. However, Strother later described the project as "a sham," realizing the payments were essentially a front for funneling money to Henry Cuellar.

Despite the charges and the evidence laid out in the plea agreements, Cuellar has maintained his innocence. In a statement released last Friday, he claimed that his actions were in line with those of his colleagues and were conducted in the interest of the American people.

This case continues to unfold as the Justice Department delves deeper into the alleged corruption.


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