Third person pleads guilty in connection with bribery case against Rep. Cuellar

A third person has pleaded guilty in connection with an investigation into Rep. Henry Cuellar and his wife, who have been charged with accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from two foreign entities, court filings this week revealed.

Irada Akhoundova pleaded guilty in federal court in Texas earlier this month to one count of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. She is the third person known to have entered into a plea agreement related to the case.

Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, and his wife, Imelda, are facing several charges, including conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and violating a ban on public officials acting as foreign agents. According to their indictment, the bribery scheme involved Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank, and the couple used the proceeds to pay taxes, satisfy debts and spend tens of thousands of dollars at restaurants and retail stores.

Court records indicate that the case against Akhoundova is related to the investigation into Cuellar and his wife, and that Akhoundova will “fully cooperate with the United States” as part of her plea agreement.

CNN has reached out to Akhoundova’s attorney for comment. Her sentencing is set for September 18.

Mina Colin Strother, Cuellar’s former campaign manager and former chief of staff, and Florencio “Lencho” Rendon, a political consultant and businessman from San Antonio, also have entered into cooperation agreements. They agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to her plea agreement, Akhoundova worked for an affiliate of an Azerbaijani company and helped facilitate a $60,000 payment as part of the bribery scheme.

Cuellar has denied any wrongdoing by him and his wife.

Chris Flood, Cuellar’s attorney, said in a statement to CNN that “Congressman Cuellar is not and has never been a foreign agent.” He added, “Congressman Cuellar has always voted his conscience and in the best interests of his constituents, consistent with many of his colleagues.”

With regards to Akhoundova’s plea, Flood said: “If the person who plead guilty tells the truth then we are not worried.”

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