Friday, August 11, 2006

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2 Former Electric Reliability Council Of Texas Managers Sentenced In Connection With In-House Crime Ring

GEORGETOWN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today continued his prosecution of a security-contract crime ring hatched within the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) as early as spring 2003, resulting in the sentencing of two additional culprits who previously pleaded guilty in Williamson County.

The two defendants, former managers at ERCOT, used “shell” security companies to bilk millions of dollars from ERCOT for products and services never delivered. Sentenced today by Williamson County District Judge Michael Jergins are:

• James Christopher Uranga, 38, director of information technology operations and corporate security, seven years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity and misapplication of fiduciary property, $505,000 in restitution to ERCOT.

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Christopher Uranga

Kenneth Shoquist

• Kenneth Shoquist, 54, chief information officer, eight years in prison for engaging in organized criminal activity and commercial bribery, $120,000 in restitution
“We are our now witnessing significant prison time for these defendants and full restitution to ERCOT as a result of these outrageous white-collar crimes,” said Attorney General Abbott. “I hope these successful prosecutions serve as an example that using positions of power to brazenly steal from a public organization will put you behind bars.”

Chris Douglas, 48, senior manager of ERCOT’s Data Warehouse, will be sentenced on Oct. 2, and he is expected to pay more than $500,000 in restitution to ERCOT. John Cavazos, 34, a nonemployee contractor and a company security director, will be sentenced Sept. 5. He has already returned $8,700 in illegally obtained monies to ERCOT.

Another former manager for ERCOT, Carlos Luquis, 38, was sentenced August 3 to 12 years in prison following a jury trial. He was also ordered to pay more than $195,000 in restitution for committing first-degree felonies in connection with one shell security company, ECT Global Services.

Luquis, a former FBI agent who was stationed in New York City at the time of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, resigned from the agency to join ERCOT, eventually masterminding the phony security-contract schemes with the other defendants in this case.

Luquis, Uranga and Douglas formed companies outside of ERCOT known as ECT Global Services, Cyberensics Corp. and Tri-Force Security Inc. They used their positions inside ERCOT to conspire to bill the state’s electric utility grid system exorbitantly for security services and products that were acquired at no cost to themselves and never delivered to ERCOT.

Steven C. Wallace, 46, program development director, still awaits trial for his role in bribing Shoquist with monies obtained from Wallace’s operation of yet another private company known as DSS Group. Shoquist signed approvals on security contracts that enabled Wallace to funnel illicit proceeds through DSS Group. Wallace has two indictments pending against him in Williamson County for $800,000 in misappropriated funds, and also three counts in a Travis County indictment for first-degree felony theft.

The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Intelligence Service and the State Auditor’s Office contributed hundreds of hours of investigative work to this case.

In 2005 the Texas Legislature enacted a law that gives the Public Utility Commission oversight of ERCOT’s budget and finances to ensure the organization properly performs its duties for the citizens of Texas.