Second Ex-El Paso County Official Pleads Guilty In Corruption Case

Monday, July 9th 2007, 7:09 am
By: News On 6

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A former El Paso County commissioner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud for accepting bribes in exchange for votes, the latest plea in an ongoing public corruption investigation.

In recent months, the FBI has raided the offices of El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos, two county commissioners and other local officials. Cobos' former chief of staff has also pleaded guilty to corruption charges and has cooperated with investigators.

The latest plea came from former County Commissioner Elizabeth ``Betti'' Flores, who pleaded guilty Friday to four charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and the deprivation of honest services and two charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each count could bring her 20 years in prison.

Flores admitted in her plea to taking bribes in exchange for votes on county contracts and other issues. According to one count, she was paid $10,000 to vote in favor of a contract for the $20 million El Paso County Parking Garage Annex and to advocate change orders to that contract. The contract was awarded in 2004.

The investigation into El Paso County's politics became public last year after federal agents raided several locations in connection with the former head of a local charity.

The probe has since expanded to include school districts, county officials and several others. Agents have raided the offices of Cobos, county commissioners Luis Sarinana and Miguel Teran, and Arturo ``Tury'' Duran, a member of a local hospital board of managers.

Cobos' former chief of staff, John Travis Ketner, pleaded guilty last month to corruption charges and claimed he was hired specifically to solicit bribes from vendors looking for county contracts. He filed an 18-page document in federal court implicating others and describing how a campaign donation, cash or trip could secure a lucrative taxpayer-funded contract.