Tafolla sentencing delayed until January

The sentencing of former Weslaco District 4 City Commissioner Gerardo “Jerry” Tafolla has been delayed until after the new year, newly released court records show.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez on Monday granted a motion for continuance on pronouncing Tafolla’s sentence until Jan. 15, 2020. The decision came the same day that Tafolla filed a sealed motion requesting the sentencing delay.

In April, Tafolla was charged with one count of federal programs bribery in connection with a larger bribery scheme regarding the $38.5 million rehabilitation of Weslaco’s water treatment facilities.

One week after the charge was filed — on April 8 — Tafolla reached a plea deal with prosecutors. Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors were set to recommend lowering the offense level of Tafolla’s charge by two levels.

In exchange for his guilty plea, Tafolla would also forfeit $20,000 and submit a “complete financial disclosure” to the government.

Five other men are currently embroiled in the case, including former District 2 Weslaco City Commissioner John Cuellar, former Precinct 1 Hidalgo County Commissioner A.C. Cuellar, Rio Grande City school board trustee Daniel Garcia, Weslaco businessman Ricardo “Rick” Quintanilla and former Rio Grande City municipal judge Leonel Lopez Jr.

Both Cuellars, Garcia and Quintanilla pleaded not guilty to a litany of charges unveiled in a 74-count superseding indictment in mid-April.

Jury selection for their joint trial is expected to begin Dec. 2. The case is being heard by Alvarez.

Meanwhile, Lopez, who was first charged with one count of bribery involving federal programs in late March, also pleaded guilty. His sentencing is slated for 9:30 a.m. Monday before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly identify that Tafolla’s motion for continuance and the judge’s order to grant it both occurred on Monday.

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