Rep. Henry Cuellar Indicted on Bribery Charges

Rep. Henry Cuellar | Image by Henry Cuellar/Instagram
Rep. Henry Cuellar | Image by Henry Cuellar/Instagram

A Texas congressman who represents counties along the southern border has been formally indicted on charges of accepting bribes from a Mexican bank and an energy company based in Azerbaijan.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and his wife, Imelda, are accused of accepting $600,000 in bribes in a scheme to influence federal policies dealing with Mexico and Azerbaijan, according to an indictment unsealed on May 3 and reported by The New York Times. Cuellar refuted the allegations and claimed he was innocent.

He said that before he accepted any money, he asked the House Ethics Committee about the legality of the situation, and he received the go-ahead from both the committee and a national law firm.

“Congressman Cuellar and Imelda Cuellar are each charged with the following offenses, and if convicted, face maximum penalties as indicated: two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery of a federal official and to have a public official act as an agent of a foreign principal required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), five years imprisonment on each count; two counts of bribery of a federal official, 15 years imprisonment on each count; two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, 20 years imprisonment on each count; two counts of violating the ban on public officials acting as agents of a foreign principal required to register under FARA, two years imprisonment on each count; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, 20 years imprisonment; and five counts of money laundering, 20 years imprisonment on each count,” a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice reads.

The couple allegedly initiated the scheme in 2014 and received payments until at least November 2021. The FBI raided Cuellar’s Laredo residence in 2022. According to CNN, the official indictment claims the couple used the money to pay taxes, reduce their debt, and purchase retail items, including a $12,000 custom gown.

According to the indictment, payments were made through shell corporations owned by Imelda. She allegedly did “little to no work” to receive the payments.

Cuellar is up for re-election in November and will face one of two Republicans who are currently in a runoff race. Cuellar, who has represented the 28th Congressional District in South Texas for nearly 20 years, won his last election in 2022 against Jessica Cisneros, an immigration attorney, by a 13-percentage-point margin, per The Texas Tribune.

Cuellar is one of the more moderate Democrats in Congress and has been described as “Trump’s favorite” by Cisneros. Cuellar is known to have worked across the aisle on legislation and fundraising and holds strong anti-abortion beliefs, which are not well represented within the Democratic Party.

While Republican members of Congress are calling for Cuellar to resign, his Democratic allies are backing him.

He will “take a leave” from his position as the leading Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations Committee while he fights the charges, according to minority leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

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