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Weslaco city commissioner pleads guilty to bribery

Weslaco City Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla pleaded guilty to bribery Monday.

Tafolla confessed to participating in a scheme to steer more than $50 million worth of infrastructure contracts — including the Weslaco water treatment plant project — to corrupt engineers. In exchange, the engineers paid more than $4 million in bribes.

Attorney Alma Garza of Edinburg, who represents Tafolla, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Tafolla pleaded guilty to federal program bribery, which is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez presided over the plea hearing, which took place on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse.

Meanwhile on the eighth floor, other Rio Grande Valley politicians charged with participating in the scheme were busy asking U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker for bond.

Hacker set bond at $75,000 for Rio Grande City school board Trustee Daniel J. Garcia, former Hidalgo County Commissioner Arturo “A.C.” Cuellar Jr. and former Weslaco City Commissioner John F. Cuellar.

“This is not your run-of-the-mill case,” Hacker said, summarizing the lengthy criminal complaint against them.

Hacker set special conditions for John Cuellar, which included a “third party custodian” in addition to the $75,000 unsecured bond. Hacker also directed John Cuellar not to drink alcohol or use any drugs without a prescription.

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