POSTED: Friday, March 22, 2013 - 5:52pm
UPDATED: Monday, March 25, 2013 - 9:24am
EL PASO — U.S. District Judge sentenced a former El Paso County judge and a prominent businessman for defrauding a county program that was meant to help children with serious mental illnesses.
Ruben "Sonny" Garcia walked out of the federal courthouse Friday morning and refused to talk.
But inside, he asked the court for forgiveness from the citizens of El Paso and the families and innocent children impacted. Garcia said, "This mistake will haunt me for the rest of my life."
District Judge Frank Montalvo sentenced Garcia to 48 months in prison and ordered him to pay $1.1 million in restitution.
His company, LKG Enterprises, Inc. will also have to pay $1.1 million in restitution and is under five year probation.
Last July, Garcia, on behalf of himself and LKG, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft or embezzlement of federal program funds.
From November 2005 to September 2006, El Paso County paid LKG $550,000 for evaluation services for the Border Children’s Mental Health Collaborative, a county program to treat and provide services for children with serious mental illnesses.
LKG failed to provide in-kind services or documentation to meet requirements of the grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA.
Garcia indirectly paid $24,000 in bribes to then El Paso County Judge Dolores Briones for her continued support of the contract.
On Friday, Briones was close to tears as she spoke to the court before Judge Montalvo announced her punishment.
She apologized and pointed out her cooperation with the FBI during their investigation.
Briones will spend 30 months in jail and have to pay $36,000 in restitution.
"The sentences that he handed down I think were appropriate," said County Judge Veronica Escobar.
Escobar spoke to the court and said, "It is my hope that these sad, unfortunate and tragic events never tarnish our great community again."
"The county really needed to address the wrongs that were committed against all of the county public servants but most especially the families that the county was committed to serving," said Escobar.
For Garcia and Briones, half of their restitution will go to SAMHSA and the other half to El Paso County. They have six weeks to turn themselves into authorities to serve their prison time.
A jury convicted former Aliviane CEO Cirilo “Chilo” Madrid of federal mail fraud and embezzlement charges for his role in the scheme. Judge Montalvo will hand down his punishment on April 15.