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Democratic Donor Pleads Guilty in Cuellar Corruption Case

Vicente Gonzalez and Solomon Ortiz, Jr. Received Donations from Florencio “Lencho” Rendon Last Year

Florencio “Lencho” Rendon, a businessman with a long history of donating to Democratic politicians, has pled guilty to federal charges stemming from his role in an alleged scheme facilitating bribes to Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar. Congressman Cuellar and his wife were indicted last week on charges involving what the United States Department of Justice describes as “two schemes involving bribery, unlawful foreign influence, and money laundering.”

Earlier this year, Rendon was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to the charge, Rendon knowingly conducted and attempted to conduct “financial transactions affecting interstate commerce, which transactions in fact involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, that is, bribery of a public official, knowing that the transactions were designed in whole and in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, and that while conducting and attempting to conduct such financial transactions, knew that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity.”

In a recently unsealed plea agreement, Rendon admitted to helping facilitate bribes to Cuellar through a series of transactions involving funds received from a Mexican financial institution that eventually flowed to Cuellar’s wife in what the plea deal describes as a “sham consulting agreement.” This scheme lasted from 2015 until January 2022, when Rendon received a subpoena from a federal grand jury seeking records related to the scheme. 

Rendon agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the plea agreement. Colin Strother, Cuellar’s longtime political consultant who also faced criminal charges from his role in the scheme, also entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Campaign finance records on file with the Texas Ethics Commission and Federal Election Commission show that Rendon has been a reliable donor to Democratic politicians in Texas and nationally. Rendon’s most recent political contributions include $1,000 to Texas House candidate Solomon Ortiz, Jr. and $1,000 to Congressman Vicente Gonzalez last year. Federal Election Commission records also show that Rendon made multiple contributions to Cuellar’s campaigns between 2006 and 2020 and donated $2,000 to Joe Biden’s campaign accounts in 2020, among donations to other Democratic politicians. 

Ortiz and Gonzalez are both running in districts that Republicans are seeking to flip in November. Ortiz, who previously served in the Texas House from 2006 until 2011, is the Democratic nominee for Texas House District 34. That seat, which covers part of Nueces County, is currently represented by retiring Democratic State Representative Abel Herrero.

Before entering the private sector, Rendon worked as Chief of Staff for Ortiz’s father, Solomon Ortiz, Sr., when the elder Ortiz served in Congress. Rendon also made several contributions to Ortiz, Jr.’s campaigns during his prior tenure in the Texas House. Republican Denise Villalobos, a Tuloso-Midway ISD school board member, will face Ortiz, Jr. in the November general election. 

In addition to the $1,000 contribution to Congressman Gonzalez last year, Rendon donated $1,500 to Gonzalez in 2022 and another $1,000 in 2019. Gonzalez will face a rematch against former Republican Congresswoman Mayra Flores in November. Flores has posted substantial fundraising numbers, outraising Gonzalez during the most recent reporting period and showing over $786,000 in cash on hand

Congressman Henry Cuellar, the Congressman at the center of the corruption probe, represents a South Texas district where the Republican Party has experienced significant growth in recent years. Despite the nature of the criminal indictment against Cuellar and the plea agreements of two of his alleged co-conspirators, the Republican Party of Texas has not posted any kind of statement about Cuellar on its website or social media accounts. 

The Texas Voice has previously reported that the Republican Party of Texas’ federal account, which is the only Party account that can be used in any efforts to defeat Cuellar in November, has 53.7% less cash on hand compared to the same time during the 2020 election cycle.  

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