Two former consultants to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar have agreed to plead guilty to assisting the lawmaker in laundering hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Mexican bank.

Colin Strother, the South Texas Democrat’s former campaign manager, and Florencio “Lencho” Rendon struck separate deals with the U.S. Department of Justice in March, where they agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

The first of the two to come clean was Strother, who signed his agreement on March 6. Nine days later, Rendon entered into his deal with federal prosecutors.

In Rendon’s agreement, the operation’s origins are stated to have begun in 2015, when Rendon met with Banco Azteca executives at Cuellar’s behest to discuss supposed regulatory issues facing the bank.

After the meetings, Rendon allegedly signed a contract paying him upwards of $15,000 monthly to provide consulting for an unnamed “U.S.-based media and television company” connected to Banco Azteca.

Strother’s deal details that Cuellar then allegedly commissioned Rendon to meet Strother, where Rendon offered Strother $11,000 a month to participate in a clandestine project that Strother eventually determined to be “a sham.”

Rendon’s agreement notes that he kept $4,000 for his consulting firm, while he expected Strother to keep $1,000 for himself and forward the remaining $10,000 to Imelda Cuellar’s company.

Rendon paid Strother $261,000 total from March 2016 to June 2019. Over $236,000 of those funds were allegedly funneled to Cuellar’s wife, Imelda Cuellar.

Prosecutors believe the transactions were part of an effort by Cuellar to hide the money from required U.S. financial disclosures.

Rendon and Strother have agreed to testify before a grand jury or any other judicial proceeding as part of their plea deals. Both still face up to 20 years in prison and onerous fines for conspiracy to commit money laundering.

News of the two plea deals, first reported by the San Antonio Express-News, comes one week after the U.S. Department of Justice revealed it indicted Cuellar on corruption and money laundering charges for over $600,000 in bribes.

A part of that indictment was Cuellar’s acceptance of funds from “a bank headquartered in Mexico City,” the other foreign entity involved was “an oil and gas company wholly owned and controlled” by Azerbaijan.

Cuellar previously served as the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus. He is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security but is taking a temporary leave.

While Cuellar could be sentenced to decades in prison if convicted, the congressman said before the indictment was unsealed that he would continue his re-election campaign.

Texas Scorecard contacted Cuellar’s office for comment but did not receive a response before publication.

Luca Cacciatore

Luca H. Cacciatore is a journalist for Texas Scorecard. He is an American Moment inaugural fellow and former welder.