Leftover Lies?

Other than those checks, Yarbrough flatly denied ever receiving checks or cash from Reyes. In trial testimony, Yarbrough admitted having received cash from Reyes but says it was the leftovers from the fund-raiser at Ben's house.

* Asked whether he had any receipts to show what happened to the money, Yarbrough answered that he didn't bother with receipts for cash donations. "I bought some fruit baskets and, and uh, we fed some people, and gave money to a nonprofit which I sit on the board of [Institute for Healthy Families]."

When agent Tony Wargo asked Yarbrough if he keeps no record of cash gifts, the councilman answered, "Yeah, I mean, you know, that's just like if, if I came to you and say, 'Uh, I have ten senior citizens I would like to buy some baskets.... Then you would say, 'Okay, Michael, it's up to you how you wanna donate the money' ... you could write a check or you can give cash, and I'll just go buy it." Yarbrough told the agents that no one who gave him cash for his projects ever thought to ask for a receipt in order to get a tax write-off.

Morning with John
Tapes of a meeting among Castillo, Betti Maldonado and Montero at the Hyatt Regency coffee shop in late April 1996 reveal a detailed discussion of the hotel project before Maldonado gave the councilman an envelope with cash. But Castillo had this recollection for agents Jim Trimbach and Kenneth Kempf: "We met 'cause he wanted to know what the status [of the hotel contract] was because they hadn't heard from Duddlesten."

* Asked later whether he had received any money or anything of value from an employee or representative of the Cayman Group, Castillo answered, "Not personally, no. But campaign, yes." At that moment Castillo continued to hold an envelope containing $2,600 that Maldonado had given him during the Hyatt meeting.

* In the interim between the Hyatt meeting and the agents' visit, Castillo spent $400 of the cash at a scholarship fund-raiser to win the title "King Ugly." Castillo insisted in the interview he had received checks only from the operatives or their representatives and all had been reported as campaign contributions.

* Castillo told the agents he did not know if Reyes had an affiliation with the Cayman Group. "I think I've seen them together once or twice," said Castillo of Reyes and Molineiro. In fact, Reyes had made his association explicit in a meeting with Castillo and Molineiro at the Ruggles bar, where he implored Castillo to become a leader for the hotel proposal after giving him a wad of cash.

* In his interview, Castillo explained that he had met Reyes at Ruggles to discuss Ben's interest in the Greater Houston Wastewater project. Tapes of the meeting show the discussion was about little else than the hotel project.

In his later court testimony, Castillo said he had gone to the bar only to give Reyes the former councilman's IRS 1040 form that had been mistakenly mailed to City Hall. Castillo told the agents the meeting took place after the Council vote on the hotel project. In fact, it had occurred three weeks before the vote.

* Agent Kempf asked Castillo whether he had ever received anything of value from Reyes. He ticked off only $300 in postage for a campaign mail-out and did not mention any recent cash. At his later trial, Castillo admitted Reyes had given him cash at the Ruggles bar but explained it away as an old debt incurred two years before when he had worked in Reyes's congressional campaign.

-- Tim Fleck

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