SAN ANTONIO – At a court hearing on Aug. 7, Texas state Sen. Carlos Uresti, (D-San Antonio) argued that attorney Mikal Watts should not be disqualified as his attorney, despite the fact they both represented the same client, Denise Cantu, several years ago.
Cantu is the victim in the criminal fraud matter.
In May, criminal charges were filed against Carlos Uresti, including wire fraud, attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.
Cantu was a client of Uresti. In August 2010, Canto was in a car accident and two of her children died. She hired Uresti to represent her in the civil action, as the SE Texas Record has previously reported. She was referred to Mikal Watts to also represent her. Uresti borrowed $200,000 from Watts, secured against the settlement of Cantu’s case.
Uresti received more than $20,000 from Cantu and persuaded her to invest the rest of the settlement money ($900,000) in a company called Four Winds Logistics.
“The indictment charges Uresti (and others) with wire fraud and securities fraud in connection with Four Winds and Ms. Cantu’s investment. Three others have already pled guilty to engaging in a scheme to defraud Ms. Cantu and others,” according to the Aug. 18 opposition to appeal of magistrate judge decision on disqualification of defense counsel entered.
In May 2017, Watts entered an appearance as the attorney of record for Uresti. There were two lengthy hearings conducted by Magistrate Judge Henry J. Bemporad as to whether or not there was a conflict of interest since Watts represented Cantu previously and she was suing Uresti, her former attorney. The judge determined that there was a violation of Rule 1.09 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct because the two matters were substantially related and Cantu’s objections overcame Uresti’s right to counsel. Uresti appealed the ruling.
Arguing for the United States, attorneys Richard L. Durbin and Joseph E. Blackwell concluded their motion by noting, “This court has an independent interest in ensuring this trial is fair to all parties - including victims. Those interest overcome the qualified right to counsel of choice and disqualification was the appropriate remedy. The magistrate judge’s decision should not be overturned, and Watts should be immediately disqualified from representing the defendant in this case,” according to the opposition to appeal.
Uresti’s office did not return calls related to this matter.