Corpus Christi – In June 2016, Alice residents Adan Caro and his wife, Sandra, were arrested for an alleged a money scheme. On Tuesday, all the charges against the Caros' were dismissed by US Attorney Lance Watt after two other individuals pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charge and admitted to scheming Koch Pipeline Company, according to published reports.
Josh Price, president of the pipeline inspection and repair services and Eulalio “Lao”Orta, engineer with Koch Pipeline Company at the time, plead to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. For their pleas, the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss 14 other charges against Price and Orta, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Orta is the son of Sandra Caro and the stepson of Adan Caro.
Adan Caro was the Republican candidate for the Jim Wells County Sheriff.
The investigation into the scheme began when Orta's then-girlfriend sent Koch packets including emails and explanations of what she said the employees were doing wrong.
Koch Pipeline Company owns and operates approximately 4,000 miles of pipeline that transports crude oil, refined petroleum products, chemicals and natural gas liquids to distribution centers across the nation.
According to initial court records, the Caro's, Price and Jackson had allegedly submitted fictitious invoices for repair work on a silt fence, which were approved by Orta for final payment. The money was then transferred through wire communication in interstate commerce. One transaction for $239,625 was transferred into M&I bank account on July 29, 2011 and another for $199,375 on Aug. 17, 2011 for work on a silt fence in the Corpus Christi area, court documents stated.
During Tuesday's court hearing, Orta admitted to creating a nonexistent company he would then hire to do work for Koch.
After Koch's investigation, the company sued Orta and nine other people, including Price and Adan and Sandra Caro. The 10 people in the civil suit agreed to pay $2.75 million to Koch, according to Corpus Christi Caller-TImes. Afterward, the case was brought to the U.S. Attorneys Office and six people were charged with criminal cases, including Rene Colon and Joanna Jackson.
Colon has since pleaded guilty to wire fraud and Jackson pleaded guilty to money laundering; they have not been sentenced. According to Corpus Christi Caller Times, U.S. attorneys agreed to recommend light sentences to a federal judge in exchange for their testimony.
Price, president and owner of Onyx Services, and Orta face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine each. U.S. Attorney Watt told U.S. District Judge Hayden Head the prosecuting office would recommend probation for Price, 37, and no more than two years in prison for Orta, 34, according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times. The judge will decide their sentences in a hearing slated for Aug. 15.