Thursday, August 3, 2006
Ercot Former Manager Carlos Luquis Sentenced To 12 Years For His Role In Crime RingGEORGETOWN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott applauded a significant prison sentence handed down today against a former in-house security manager for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), headquartered in Taylor.
Carlos Luquis, 38, was sentenced to 12 years on each felony charge by Williamson County District Judge Michael Jergins. He will serve the sentence concurrently and will pay a $10,000 fine and make restitution of $205,000 to ERCOT.
A jury returned a guilty verdict late Friday night on two counts of engaging in criminal activity for theft and misapplication of fiduciary property connected to his role with five other defendants in the operation of in-house “shell” security companies, which cost ERCOT millions. After three days of evidence presented during the punishment phase of the trial, the same jury today recommended the judge order the sentence against Luquis.
“This proves that white-collar crime does not pay,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Those who arrogantly use positions of power to abuse the public trust will see their day in court and justice will be done. I am very pleased with the outcome of this long, arduous case.”
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. In testimony during last week’s trial, former ERCOT Chief Executive Officer Tom Noel said he was astonished by Luquis’s decision to leave the FBI for the position at ERCOT.
During the punishment phase of the trial, Assistant Attorney General David Glickler brought in Mary Galligan, who served as the FBI’s lead investigative agent in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She told the jury she recently obtained a copy of a resume Luquis submitted to ERCOT officials when he was still employed by the FBI, but at the time on administrative leave. In it, she said Luquis exaggerated his involvement in the intense 9/11 investigation, leading her and other FBI officials to conclude he exploited the national tragedy for personal gain.
Gregory Jones, a special agent in charge during 9/11, told the jury Monday that Luquis deceived the FBI about his plans for joining ERCOT and withheld information that his new job would involve in-house security work, both in direct conflict with FBI employment policies.
Shortly thereafter, Luquis joined colleagues inside ERCOT to work as a security manager, cobbling together the phony security-contract schemes with the other defendants that cost the organization millions of dollars.
Investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Intelligence Service and the State Auditor’s Office also testified at the punishment hearing. Their testimony convinced the jury that the defendant schemed to hide his assets after the ERCOT criminal investigation became public and before warrants were executed on his homes.
Three remaining defendants all pleaded guilty to felonies and await sentencing on Aug. 11 in Georgetown. The three, all former employees or managers at ERCOT, are Ken Shoquist, chief information officer; Chris Uranga, director of information technology operations and corporate security; and Chris Douglas, senior manager of ERCOT’s Data Warehouse.
One former ERCOT employee, Steve Wallace, program development director, still awaits trial. He 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.
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.