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Former El Paso County Commissioner Betti Flores sentenced to probation

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Fomer District Clerk computer consultant, Fernando Parra, granted time served

Friday, December 13, 2013 - 2:12pm

Former El Paso County Commissioner Elizabeth “Betti” Flores was sentenced Friday to five years of probation and a $25,000 fine in her role in a public corruption scheme. Flores pleaded guilty to accepting cash bribes in exchange for her vote to settle lawsuits and grant contracts to favorable companies.

Fernando Parra, a computer consultant who worked out of District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez’s office, was also sentenced for his role in the case. Parra, who served five and a half months in federal prison related to the case, was granted time served and one year unsupervised, non-reporting release. His attorney, Gal Pissetzky, said it is not probation. Parra was also facing a charge for obscene material, but it was dismissed.

El Paso County also requested that Flores and Parra pay restitution in the amount of their salaries, but Judge Frank Montalvo ruled against it.

Flores and Parra made a statement in front of the courtroom packed with friends and family. Flores’ voice cracked as she apologized to the El Paso Community, “I humbly apologize for not giving them what they deserve,” said Flores. She also apologized to her family, “I humbly ask for mercy and leniency so that I may continue to care for my elderly parents,” said Flores.

Flores cares for her 93-year-old father, who is a World War II Veteran who has skin cancer, and also cares for her elderly mother who recently had hip surgery. Flores now works at a cashier at a restaurant in El Paso’s Lower Valley.

When she walked out of the federal courthouse, she made a statement to the media.

“Thank you very much for the ones who have supported me, and the ones that didn’t, I don’t blame anyone. I made bad mistakes and I’m very sorry for them,” she said.

Government Prosecutor Debra Kanof asked for leniency for both Flores and Parra because of their help with the government investigation. Kanof said Flores was an attractive target because she was “not educated” and came from a humble background.

Parra also apologized to the community for his role in the case. He admitted that he traded honesty and integrity to be a part of the local political landscape that he was so mesmerized by.

Parra stared working with the District Clerk’s office in January 31, 2003. He admitted to working with others to manipulate the county’s computer system so that judge’s friendly to lawyers could be chosen.

He was not a U.S. citizen at the time. “I failed to uphold the law that attracted me to become a U.S. citizen in the first place. Parra is now on the brink of earning his Doctorate degree at the University of Texas El Paso, where he currently works as a professor in the College of Business Administration.

Judge Montalvo said he was not impressed with Parra’s education, and said that it helped him in the scheme. “He showed his intellectual discipline during his criminal conduct,” said Judge Montalvo.

Judge Montalvo recommended that Parra seek psychological counseling for his “demons,” warning that Parra would likely find himself in a similar situation again in his professional career.

“There are going to be many glittering attractions in your life,” said Montalvo.

After leaving the federal courthouse in Downtown El Paso, Parra did not make a comment to the media. Instead, his attorney made a comment.

“Mr. Parra is fully remorse about what he did. He has taken great steps to help in the recovery of the citizens, their trust in the community. He’s going to continue on doing that for the rest of his life.”

Judge Montalvo acknowledged that the two individuals who got Flores and Parra involved in the corruption case “are serving serious time,” referring to former El Paso County Judge Luther Jones and former District Clerk Gilbert Sanchez.
Jones and Sanchez were sentenced to a six year federal prison sentence in 2011. Jones was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.

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