Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fourth man indicted in connection with bribes-for-contracts scheme at TxDOT

Man accused of lying to agents about TxDOT bribes

July 2, 2008

By Jeremy Roebuck
The Monitor
Copyright 2008

McALLEN - A fourth man has been indicted in connection with a bribes-for-contracts scheme at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Federal prosecutors allege Ricardo Ballí lied to FBI agents and Texas Rangers when he said he had not witnessed TxDOT's local maintenance administrator extort cash payments from a contractor looking for work.

The administrator, Cresenciano "Chano" Falcon, 56, and two other TxDOT inspectors pleaded guilty in May to accepting bribes in exchange for certifying completed contract projects.

Authorities would release little information Tuesday about Ballí, including his age, city of residence and how he was connected to the case. But local TxDOT spokeswoman Amy Rodriguez said he had never worked for the agency.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby ordered Ballí to present himself in court on July 8 for an initial hearing.

The investigation into the three TxDOT workers was initiated after a private contractor informed authorities he was being forced to pay bribes to the men in exchange for continuing to receive work from the agency.

Falcon and his two co-defendants -- Ray Llanes, 50, and Noe Beltran, 42 -- could each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at a sentencing hearing scheduled for August. None of the three works for TxDOT now, but the exact circumstances and timing of their departures from the agency were not immediately clear Tuesday.

If convicted, Ballí could be incarcerated for up to five years.

His attorney, Robert Armand Berg, did not return calls seeking comment late Tuesday.

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