A Mexican oilman convicted in May of laundering millions of dollars for the deadly Los Zetas cartel is willing to drop his appeals should his son violate any conditions of a supervised release before trial, his lawyers said Tuesday in federal court.
The rare proposal from Francisco Colorado Cessa came as defense attorneys sought bail for Francisco Colorado Jr., who along with Colorado and one of Colorado’s business associates, Ramon Segura Flores, is facing a count of conspiracy to bribe a public official. Prosecutors have said the three men tried to offer $1 million to a federal judge in exchange for lesser punishment for Colorado on his original charges.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin said he would need at least a week review the case and make a decision. He ordered that Segura remain incarcerated while his case is pending, and the judge waived a detention hearing for Colorado, who is already serving 20 years in prison for funneling the Zetas’ proceeds through his environmental clean-up company, ADT Petroservicios.
Colorado could face additional time if convicted; Segura and Colorado Jr. are each facing up to five years in prison.
In detention hearings for Colorado Jr. and Segura, defense lawyers described Colorado’s proposal as “the only way for a father to help his son.” Colorado had a lot to lose, they said, as he would be giving up the right to challenge his conviction and any forfeiture cases filed by prosecutors, who court records show are looking to seize millions from his bank accounts and two airplanes bought by his business.
But prosecutors balked at the proposition in court, saying they would need to discuss it without Austin’s presence as a judge cannot be involved in plea negotiations. In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Gardner said he was offended by Colorado Jr.’s request for special treatment and described him as entitled.
Whatever conditions the judge imposed upon supervised release, Colorado Jr. would not follow them, Gardner said.
“Perversion of justice is a way of life for them,” Gardner said.
Defense lawyer David Gerger countered that Colorado Jr. had not lived a life of crime like his father. “There is no evidence of life without structure, a life of drugs. He doesn’t have wealth,” he said.
The three men sat alongside their attorneys in shackles and faded, striped jumpsuits. Colorado Jr. discretely blew kisses to his family members as he entered and left the courtroom. Segura took notes on a yellow legal pad, looking distressed throughout the proceedings.
On the stand, FBI Special Agent Stephen Hause reiterated many of the charges against the men already laid out in court records. He said Colorado Cessa Jr. and Segura Flores had met with two undercover agents — one of them pretending to be an ex-convict, the other a lawyer — at least twice in August and “were given a fabricated story” that U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks would accept the money. Officials have said that Sparks had been unaware of the foiled attempt to bribe him.
Hause told Austin that authorities first became aware of the payoff attempt in early July through a tip from an informant. The informant led special agents to a friend who met with undercover investigators at a South Austin coffee shop in July and said that he was “representing the Colorado Cessa family and was trying to find a local attorney to bribe the judge,” Hause said.
When undercover agents revealed who they actually were, the friend agreed to cooperate to avoid charges in the bribery conspiracy, Hause said.
In cross-examination, Segura’s defense lawyer, Paul Nugent, questioned the veracity of the information provided by cooperating sources and said both informants had financial incentives to keep the deal moving forward. Defense attorneys also implied that law enforcement agents could have been the driving force behind the bribe.
But Hause said the majority of the meetings and conversations in the extensive investigation were corroborated through recordings, phone and jail records and witnesses.
Defense witness Norman Ruiz, a childhood friend of Colorado Cessa, said he would be willing to co-sign a bail agreement with Colorado Jr., which would make him liable if the 25-year-old does not appear in court the next time he is due.
Ruiz described the engineering student as responsible and said he believed the young man would not skirt the law. In answering questions from prosecutors, he said he did not know how Colorado Cessa had founded his business or that Zeta leaders were among the company his friend kept.