Guillermo Gandara Sr., the former mayor of Socorro, entered a last minute guilty plea to federal fraud charges on Monday afternoon. Gandara pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting wire fraud and deprivation of honest services fraud as part of his agreement with federal prosecutors. His grand jury trial was scheduled to begin on Monday morning but defense attorneys spent most of the day in discussions over the plea agreement. Guillermo Gandara becomes the 11th person accused of fraud in the investigation dubbed as “Operation Poisoned Pawns.”
Federal investigators accused Gandara of accepting a $1,000 bribe in 2006 while he was the Socorro Independent School District board president. In exchange, Gandara voted to support Access HealthSource, which sought to be the district’s health insurance provider. The trustees initially approved Access as the district’s insurance provider before later rejecting the vote and approving another health provider.
The maximum penalty in this case will be three and a half years in prison unless prosecutors decide to file a request for a lesser sentence. Guillermo Gandara remains free on bond and awaits his sentencing hearing which has been scheduled for November 6th.
Ten co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty to various charges of fraud or violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (also known as RICO). They are former Access spokesman Marc Schwartz; former Access President Francisco “Frank” Apodaca; former El Paso County Judge Luther Jones; former El Paso County District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez; lawyer David Escobar; former Ysleta Independent School District board trustees Linda Chavez and Milton “Mickey” Duntley; former city Rep. and County Commissioner Larry Medina; and Garcia and Rodriguez.
If you find yourself facing federal fraud charges, it is important to find an experienced federal wire fraud attorney to represent you. The criminal attorneys of Parkman & White, LLC have a history of success in the court room and are ready to represent clients nationwide.