Fourth man guilty in TxDOT bribery case

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4th man guilty in TxDOT bribery case
Valley Morning Star
August 19, 2008

McALLEN — A fourth man has pleaded guilty in connection with a cash-for-contracts scheme at the Texas Department of Transportation.

Ricardo Ballí admitted Friday that he lied to FBI agents and Texas Rangers investigating allegations that TxDOT’s local maintenance administrator had extorted 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 have remained tight-lipped about Ballí’s connection to the scheme since opening a case against him last month, even declining to release his age, city of residence or occupation. But local TxDOT spokeswoman Amy Rodriguez has previously said Ballí never worked for the agency.

His attorney, Robert Armand Berg, refused to comment Monday.

The investigation into the three TxDOT workers was initiated after a private contractor informed authorities he was asked to pay bribes to the men in order to receive work from the agency.

Falcon and his two co-defendants — Ray Llanes, 50, and Noe Beltran, 42 — face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines at a sentencing hearing set for next week.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Balli will not face any additional charges beyond lying to investigators. He entered his plea Friday before he was formally indicted in the case.

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled for him. He could face up to five years in prison.