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Congressman Henry Cuellar & Wife Charged With Bribery, Money Laundering Schemes

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U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar and his wife Imelda are facing sweeping federal charges of bribery, unlawful foreign influence, and money laundering, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

An indictment unsealed in the Southern District of Texas alleges the powerful Texas Democrat and his spouse participated in brazen pay-to-play schemes involving foreign entities over a span of nearly seven years.

According to prosecutors, the Cuellars allegedly accepted around $600,000 in bribes from 2014 to 2021 from an Azerbaijani state-owned oil company and a major Mexican bank. The indictment states the illicit funds were laundered through sham consulting contracts and shell companies controlled by Imelda Cuellar.

In exchange for the Azerbaijani company’s bribes, Henry Cuellar is accused of agreeing to leverage his congressional influence to sway U.S. foreign policy in favor of the authoritarian former Soviet republic’s interests.

Meanwhile, the payments from the Mexican bank were allegedly in exchange for Cuellar committing to influence legislation and lobby high-ranking executive branch officials for measures financially benefiting the financial institution.

Prosecutors assert Henry Cuellar effectively rented out his legislative powers and authority as a sitting U.S. congressman to line his own pockets at the behest of foreign interests hostile to democracy.

“This is an egregious breach of public trust,” said FBI Assistant Director Michael Nordwall. “No one is above the law, especially those entrusted with upholding it.”

The 31-count indictment includes charges of bribery, honest services fraud, money laundering, and violation of laws prohibiting federal officials from secretly acting as agents of foreign principals. If convicted on all counts, the Cuellars each face the potential of decades in federal prison.

Both entered not guilty pleas at their arraignment hearing in Houston. Cuellar’s attorney vowed to “fight these charges vigorously” and declared his client’s innocence.

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