Former Socorro mayor Willie Gandara Sr. pleads guilty to federal wire fraud charge

EL PASO, Texas - Guillermo "Willie" Gandara, Sr. has has entered a last minute guilty plea on wire fraud charge Monday afternoon.

There is a cap of up to 3 1/2 years in prison on the charge that has been set. Sentencing is Nov. 6.

Gandara is one of 11 people accused of fraud in the FBI investigation dubbed "Operation Poisoned Pawns."

Jury selection was set to begin on Monday, July 22 in Gandara's trial.

The former mayor of Socorro and former board trustee for the Socorro Independent School District had previously pled not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Federal investigators accused Gandara of accepting a $1,000 bribe from Access Healthsource in exchange for a vote in favor of Access to be the SISD's insurance provider when he was a trustee.

According to the 2010 indictment, the bribe was intended for Willie Gandara, Jr., the former county commissioner who at the time was running for state representative. Gandara, Jr. has pled guilty to unrelated drug trafficking charges.

Other co-conspirators who have pled guilty are Access CEO Frank Apodaca, Access attorney and former County Judge Luther Jones, attorney David Escobar, former County Commissioner Betti Flores, former City Representative Larry Medina, former District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez, former SISD trustees Charlie Garcia and Ray Rodriguez and former YISD trustees Milton "Mickey" Duntley and Linda Chavez.

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