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Former Socorro Mayor Willie Gandara Sr. hit with another charge [El Paso Times, Texas]

By Evan Mohl, El Paso Times, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 10--Federal prosecutors have added another charge to the corruption case of Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Sr., a former Socorro mayor and Socorro Independent School District trustee.

In a superseding indictment filed Wednesday, prosecutors allege that Gandara aided and abetted mail fraud, wire fraud and the deprivation of honest services when he was an SISD trustee in 2006. Gandara is accused of accepting a $1,000 bribe to support the school district's contract with a health insurance provider, Access HealthSource.

Gandara was already charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and deprivation of honest services in the same scheme. Gandara was indicted in 2010 along with 10 others, all of whom have already pleaded

guilty.

"It doesn't change much factually," said Gandara's attorney, Jim Darnell. "It's just kind of legal rewrite of what was already there before."

The U.S. District Attorney's Office also introduced some new wording into the original charge, alleging that Gandara violated his "oath as an SISD Trustee." Bob Jones, who was convicted of several public corruption charges and is currently serving a 10-year sentence at La Tuna federal prison, was named a co-conspirator in the superceding indictment.

The additional charge and changes to Gandara's indictment come six weeks before Gandara's jury trial, which is set for March 25.

"I don't think it's an attempt to get a plea deal," Darnell said. "They know at this point

we're not going to plea. Willie's position was not guilty before, and that doesn't change with his tweaks."

Gandara's trial was originally set for last September, but it was delayed when federal prosecutors successfully filed a motion to disqualify defense lawyer Joe Spencer, who represented Gandara's son Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr. in a drug-trafficking case.

The $1,000 bribe Gandara Sr. allegedly took from Access HealthSource went to support his son, who at the time announced his candidacy for state representative, officials said.

The elder Gandara, once considered a rising star in Lower Valley politics, was an elected official in school politics for several years. In 2010, he was elected Socorro mayor soon before his public corruption indictment. A year later, he became the first elected official in county history to be recalled by voters.

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He has owned at least two successful Socorro businesses: Socorro Iron & Metals and Gandara Recycling.

Evan Mohl may be reached at emohl@elpasotimes.com; 546-6381. Follow him on Twitter @EvanMohl Reporters Adriana Chavez and Marty Schladen contributed to this report.

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(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

Visit the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas) at www.elpasotimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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