AUSTIN (Texas) — The FBI arrested a businessman Thursday at the heart of the scandal which led to the historic imposition of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. This move came amid new questions raised about the men’s deals by financial records that the Republican’s attorneys made public in an attempt to clear him of allegations of bribery.
According to Travis County Sheriff’s Office, federal agents arrested Nate Paul in the late afternoon and booked him into an Austin jail. The charges that led to Paul’s arrest were not immediately known, but records indicated he was held under a federal detainer.
Paul’s arrest came after a year-long federal investigation of the Austin real estate developer. Paxton enlisted his office to help with this probe, which set off a series of events leading to his impeachment.
Paul’s lawyers did not respond immediately to requests for comments. Dan Cogdell said that he did not have any additional information about the arrest. The FBI refused to comment and a spokesperson for federal prosecutors West Texas did no respond to inquiries.
FBI agents investigating Paul’s troubled property empire in 2019 searched his Austin office and palatial house. Seven of Paxton‘s top deputy reported the attorney general’s office to the FBI in the following year on allegations of bribery, abuse of his position, and attempting to help Paul by hiring a lawyer who would examine the developer’s claims that federal agents had wronged him.
The FBI’s investigation into the allegations made by Paxton and his staff continues. They are also central to the articles of impeachment approved by the GOP controlled state House of Representatives.
Paxton’s defense presented a full room of journalists with a bank statement showing a wire transfer from 2020 purporting to show him paying $120,000, not as a donor.
The wire transfer date was Oct. 1, 2020. That’s the same day Paxton deputies sent a letter to the Texas Attorney General’s Office informing them that they reported Paxton.
State corporation and court documents show that the $121,000 was paid to Cupertino Builders whose manager is an associate of Paul.
It took more than three full weeks for the company to be incorporated in Texas. In April that same year, a company with the same name was registered in Delaware. However, public filings in Delaware do not reveal who is behind it.
A court-appointed supervisor for some of Paul’s companies wrote last year in a report, that Cupertino Builders had been used to “fraudulently transfer” money from Paul’s business to Narsimha Sagiraju who was convicted in California of fraud in 2016. Sagiraju was described as Paul’s friend in the report.
Paul, who employed a woman Paxton admitted to having an extramarital relationship with, denied bribing Paxton. Paul, in a deposition describing Sagiraju’s role as “independent contractor”, said that he did not remember the first time they met.
They were first reported by a href=”https://www.wsj.com/articles/ken-paxtons-home-renovationpaymentdisclosureshowsnewtiestodonor” target=”_blank”>The Wall Street Journal/a>. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report them.
Tony Buzbee is a well-known Houston attorney, who was hired over the weekend by Paxton and led the press conference. He said in an email sent on Thursday that the receipts “clearly” show Paxton paid for repairs. He didn’t answer questions about the timing or Cupertino builders.
“Without any proof, the politicians who led this sham of an impeachment falsely claimed that General Paxton had not paid for repairs to his house. Buzbee stated that this is a falsehood.
Paxton, who is only the third sitting Texas official to have been impeached in history, has criticized the proceedings, calling them rushed and politically motivated. He also claimed that he never had the opportunity to refute the allegations in the Texas House.
Buzbee, a reporter at the time, told the reporters that they had the receipts. This is what we offered them when we discovered this stupidity was taking place.
Paxton has been suspended from his office until the conclusion of the trial that will begin in the Texas Senate on August 28. The jury will consist of 31 members of the Texas Senate. Paxton’s spouse, Senator Angela Paxton has not yet indicated whether she will recuse her self.
The Paxtons bought the Austin house in 2018 In court documents, Paul’s former employees claimed that when the house was renovated two years later, he “was involved” in the work.
The 20 articles of impeachment include accusations that Paxton used his power to assist Paul in a case where he was unable to prove the unfounded claims of a conspiracy to steal 200 million dollars from the developer’s property. In 2019, the FBI searched Paul’s house, but he was not charged. His attorneys also denied any wrongdoing.
The city does not have any records of permits for the renovations. In 2021, a different Austin contractor – not Cupitino Builders – received a federal subpoena for records relating to the work done on Paxton’s house that began in January 2020.
According to Texas corporate records, Cupertino Builders formed in October 2020. It was dissolved less two years later. Sagiraju was its manager. He said, in a deposition related to a separate case, that he had done “consulting work” for Paul’s firm and owned an email with Paul’s.
According to the transcript of his deposition, Sagiraju admitted that he had served time in prison for securities fraud and grand larceny in California before moving from there to Austin. He claimed that a mutual acquaintance introduced him to Paul before he served his prison sentence and that they did “a couple of projects” together.
Requests for comment from Sagiraju’s lawyer were not immediately answered.
Paxton has been indicted separately on charges of securities fraud in 2015. He is yet to be tried.