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Rep. Henry Cuellar and his wife allegedly took nearly $600,000 in bribes, indictment says

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife were accused of accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from two foreign entities, according to an indictment filed in a Texas federal court.

The alleged scheme ran from late 2014 through at least November 2021, the indictment states.

The congressman and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, made their first court appearance Friday in Houston and were released on $100,000 bail. They face several charges, including conspiracy to bribe a federal official, violating the ban on public officials acting as agents of a foreign principal and money laundering.

In a statement Friday, Cuellar said: “I want to be clear that my wife and I are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas.

Cuellar said in his statement that the actions he took in Congress were “in the best interests of the American people” and pledged to continue his bid for re-election in November. The congressman also defended his wife, saying “the allegation that she is anything but qualified and hard-working is both false and offensive.”

“The actions I took in Congress were consistent with those of many of my colleagues and in the best interests of the American people,” Cuellar said.

Prosecutors say Henry and Imelda Cuellar hatched two-year-long schemes to obtain bribes from foreign entities — an oil and gas company “entirely owned and controlled by the government of Azerbaijan, and a bank headquartered in Mexico City.”

In exchange for bribes from the Azerbaijani oil company, Cuellar “agreed to perform official acts in his capacity as a member of Congress, to commit acts in violation of his official duties, and to act as a agent of the government of Azerbaijan” and the bank, the indictment says.

Among those promises, prosecutors say, Cuellar agreed to influence U.S. policy through a “series of legislative actions related to the conflict between Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia,” giving a pro-Azerbaijan speech on the House floor, inserting “Azerbaijan-favored” language into legislation and committee reports and advocating for a “series of legislative measures related to the conflict between Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia.”

The Texas Democrat also reportedly promised to influence financial regulation in ways that would benefit the Mexican bank and its subsidiaries, including working to pressure the executive branch over enforcement practices. money laundering that “threatened” their business interests and supporting revisions to the law. criminal laws on money laundering.

The couple received the bribes through shell companies owned by Imelda Cuellar, according to prosecutors. They allegedly used the proceeds from these corrupt schemes to pay taxes, pay off debts and spend tens of thousands of dollars at restaurants and retail stores. One purchase was for a $12,000 custom dress, according to the indictment.

Cuellar’s home and campaign office in Laredo, Texas, were raided by the FBI in 2022. The charges against Cuellar are not yet publicly available.

A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries issued a statement shortly after the accusations against Cuellar were reported, saying the congressman was entitled to the presumption of innocence. But, spokeswoman Christie Stephenson said, Cuellar will temporarily vacate his top spot on the House Appropriations subcommittee while the investigation is underway.

“Henry Cuellar has admirably dedicated his career to public service and is a valued member of the House Democratic Caucus. Like every American, Congressman Cuellar is entitled to his appearance in court and to the presumption of innocence throughout the legal process,” Stephenson said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee quickly called on Cuellar to resign.

“If his colleagues truly believe in putting people before politics, they will call on him to resign. Otherwise, they are hypocrites whose statements about public service are not worth the paper they are written on,” said Delanie Bomar, spokesperson for the NRC, in a statement.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that a spokesperson for Hakeem Jeffries released a statement following news of Cuellar’s accusations. This story and headline have also been updated with additional developments.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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