Criminal Justice

3 plead guilty in attempt to pay $1.2M bribe to federal judge in cartel money-laundering case

Three Mexican citizens have pleaded guilty in a failed attempt to pay a $1.2 million bribe to a federal judge hearing a drug cartel money-laundering case in Austin, Texas.

Court documents say Judge Sam Sparks didn’t know about the attempted bribe before he sentenced Francisco Colorado Cessa in September, because those attempting to pay him the bribe were unwittingly dealing with investigators, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Sparks gave Cessa 20 years for his role in the scheme, which involved laundering money for Los Zetas through purported profits from purchasing, training, breeding and racing American quarter horses, explained a press release last year from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas.

Cessa, his son Francisco Colorado Cessa Jr., and business associate Ramon Segura Flores entered guilty pleas Wednesday to charges of conspiring to bribe a federal judge. All remain in custody, according to the Associated Press and the Express-News.

The feds say the Zetas laundered $60 million since 2008 through the massive quarter horse operation, fixing some races in Texas and New Mexico as part of the scheme, the Houston Chronicle (sub. req.) reported last year.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office first learned of the bribery plan through jailhouse phone conversations between the senior Cessa and others, the Texas Observer reports. A sting was then set up by the FBI involving a confidential informant who posed as an associate of the judge.

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