Name that party Corpus Christi, Texas
A Nueces County grand jury handed up two indictments Friday against former law firm operator Mauricio Celis, charging him with money laundering and impersonating a lawyer. The money laundering charge is a first-degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison.There it is near the bottom of the story. The story does not mention that he was a big contributor to the Hillary Clinton campaign. Nor does it mention that Mikal Watts, "a friend of Celis," was a candidate for the Democrat nomination to run against John Cornyn in this years senate race. He dropped out before the primary. His wealth was his major asset in that contest.
The grand jury listened to nearly three days of testimony and evidence, spread across three weeks, before indicting Celis. Well-known trial lawyer Mikal Watts, a friend of Celis, testified Friday. Investigators from the Texas Attorney General's Office also appeared before the grand jury, with several boxes of evidence.
Celis, 36, was indicted in November 2007 by a Nueces County grand jury on felony charges of impersonating a lawyer and a police officer, perjury and theft. He owned Corpus Christi-based CGT Law Group before coming under public scrutiny after an incident with police in September and an ad campaign by another local lawyer claiming Celis was not a licensed attorney.
The indictments handed up Friday include 16 additional counts of impersonating a lawyer, based on listing his occupation as an attorney on insurance applications and fax cover sheets, and for accepting $1.3 million in checks written to him for attorney fees.
The money laundering charge is based on about $8.6 million in transactions. State law defines money laundering as acquiring or transferring money through the commission of a crime. The crime to which Valdez and the Texas Attorney General's Office link the money transfer is impersonating a lawyer.
Money laundering is a first-degree felony punishable by five years to life in prison. The other charges are third-degree felonies punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Valdez called the case unique in Nueces County history.
"This is just the tip of a very, very big iceberg," Valdez said. "There's no way we can delve into all that's happened."
State officials raided the former CGT office at 500 N. Water St. in January and hauled off Palm Pilots and 13 boxes of records. A search warrant linked Celis to possible money laundering, which he has denied.
The warrant also indicated officials were looking for links between Celis and other lawyers and firms who accepted or gave referrals to CGT Law Group. Celis has asked the courts to return his property and said the Republican Attorney General's Office is carrying out a political vendetta against him because of his extensive donations to Democrats.
Trial lawyers have come under scrutiny in several cases recently, In this case it appears a man accused of being a phony trial lawyer is being charged for wanting in on the deals.