DALLAS - A computer technician became the fifth person to plead guilty to bribing an El Paso County commissioner this week, but more than a year after the first guilty plea, none of the five commissioners have been charged with any crime.
Also free of any charges is county Judge Anthony Cobos, even though his former chief of staff, John Travis Ketner, pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes, including one from firms bidding for the county's bond business.
Fernando Parra, a politically well-connected computer expert who did business with the county, on Tuesday "admitted to conspiring to devise a scheme to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses in an effort to sway the votes of elected members of the El Paso County Commissioners Court and to engaging in the conspiracy with an elected county official," according to information filed in U.S. District Court.
"Those officials agreed to accept cash, trips and payment of debts in exchange for their support and vote in their official capacity as members of the El Paso County Commissioners Court and as an elected county official," according to the document.
One former member of the Commissioners Court, Betti Flores, has admitted to taking bribes in exchange for her vote on bond matters dealing with the county's hospital, but details have been sketchy.
Lobbyist Antonio "Tony" Dill, lawyer Raymond Telles, and former Bear, Stearns & Co. investment bankers Roberto "Bobby" Ruiz and Christopher Chol-su Pak have also pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges involving the commissioners.
None of the people pleading guilty in the corruption investigation of the county, the city or El Paso-area school districts have faced trial or sentencing.
County Commissioners Veronica Escobar and Dan Haggerty have never been implicated in the scandal, and two mentioned in Ketner's information, Luis SariÃ±ana and Miguel TerÃ¡n, have denied wrongdoing. Cobos, the presiding member of the court and top county official, has also denied any wrongdoing.