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4 face sentencing Tuesday in El Paso corruption scheme [El Paso Times, Texas]

By Adriana M. Chavez, El Paso Times, Texas
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Feb. 14--Four people who last year admitted participating in a scheme to funnel multimillion-dollar contracts, funded by taxpayer money, to a health insurance company that never delivered on its obligations, are scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Attorney David Escobar, former Ysleta Independent School District board Trustees Linda Chavez and Milton "Mickey" Duntley, and former El Paso County Commissioner Larry Medina are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo at 9 a.m. Tuesday. They remain free on bond after pleading guilty last summer to conspiracy charges in the public corruption investigation involving Access HealthSource, a company that offered health care insurance.

They and seven other local political figures were indicted in 2010 on charges that they corruptly steered more than $100 million in government health insurance business to Access.

Four of those indicted -- former Access President Frank Apodaca, former political consultant Marc Schwartz, and former Socorro Independent School District board Trustees Charles "Charlie" Garcia and Raymundo "Ray" Rodriguez -- have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 14. They also are free on bond as they await sentencing.

Two co-defendants in the case, former El Paso County Judge Luther Jones and former El Paso District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez, are serving federal prison time. Last year, Jones was sentenced to five years in prison after

pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud, while Sanchez was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to the same charge.

The 11th person charged in the same indictment, former Socorro Mayor Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr., has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial in July, about a month before Apodaca, Schwartz, Garcia and Rodriguez are scheduled to be sentenced.

So far, it is not clear whether they will testify against Gandara.

Apodaca pleaded guilty in July to one count of racketeering. He admitted directing cash bribes and other gifts to members of the El Paso County Commissioners Court and to trustees of the El Paso, Ysleta and Socorro school districts in exchange for taxpayer business.

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Prosecutors say Access did not deliver on its obligations, costing district employees and taxpayers millions.

Adriana M. Chavez may be reached at [email protected]; 546-6117. Follow her on Twitter @AChavezEPTimes

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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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