A San Antonio businessman was sentenced to federal prison Tuesday for defrauding personal injury clients, tax evasion and hiding his assets from the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, the FBI announced yesterday. Elpido Gongora, 47, who also went under the name “Pete Gongora,” was sentenced to four years in prison by U.S. District Judge Fred Biery.
Judge Biery ordered that Gongora pay $3.490 million in restitution and stipulated a mandatory supervision of three years after completing his prison term.
When Gongora pleaded guilty to various charges last July, he joined co-defendants Rosa Ramirez, Juan Rodriguez, and Ronald Higgins in admitting mail fraud. Judge Biery sentenced Higgins to five years probation and ordered him to pay $1,490,000 restitution jointly and severally with Gongora. Sentencing for Ramirez and Rodriguez is scheduled for June 13, 2017.
Ramirez, Rodriguez, and Higgins operated the law offices of several personal injury attorneys, including the Law Office of Ronald Higgins in San Antonio and other locations in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico.
“By pleading guilty, Gongora admitted that he stole money from the personal injury clients by failing to pay monies owed to clients under settlement agreements or to pay obligations for medical treatment and physical therapy after committing to do so,” announced U.S. Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr. “To carry out this scheme, Gongora collected the proceeds of fraudulently endorsed personal injury settlement checks and would hide from the attorneys his failure to pay clients settlement proceeds to which they were entitled.”
“In 2013, Gongora and his wife filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the Western District of Texas,” announced Christopher Combs, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Antonio Division. “By pleading guilty, Gongora admitted to his failure to disclose to the Bankruptcy Trustee that he owned personal assets that included a 33-foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser; a 29-foot 2005 Seaswirl boat; a 2005 Ford F-150 truck; real property located on Elm Valley in San Antonio; and, a residence located in Aransas Pass, Texas.”
“By pleading guilty, Gongora also admitted that he willfully attempted to evade paying over $1.6 million in taxes, penalties and interest owed to the Internal Revenue Service for calendar years 2003 through 2005 and 2007 through 2013,” a press release from the FBI and William Cotter, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge; and Judy A. Robbins, U.S. Trustee for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas stated.
Gongora’s scheme included evading payment of more than $1.6 million in taxes and attempting to hide assets valued at $429,000 from the Bankruptcy Trustee. Assistant United States Attorney Bud Paulissen is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.