Construction company owner, former NFL punter in court yesterday for forgery

BROWNSVILLE — Assistant Cameron County District Attorney Oscar Guzman asked for another time out yesterday.

He is prosecuting former National Football League punter Leobardo Araguz, who is accused of forging a check.

And at the start of yesterday’s hearing, Araguz’s defense attorney Dan Sanchez and Guzman gathered in front of the bench of Judge Gloria Rincones in 445th district court to hash out the next play in the case.

They came out of their two-minute huddle and rescheduled another hearing for Dec. 7 and set a new trial date for Dec. 11.

The former Los Angeles Raider of the NFL, who grew up and still lives in Harlingen, is accused of wrongfully signing and cashing a check worth $10,000.

“The only money I took was my money,” Araguz, the owner of Araguz Construction, said. “I just want this over with, and my name cleared.”

Trial was originally set for Oct. 23 but was canceled at the State’s request for additional time to review the case, according the Register of Actions for the District Clerk’s office.

The indictment against Araguz alleges he forged a check of Dempsie Clinton and Victoria Clinton on Oct. 17, 2016.

Araguz had been contracted by the Clintons to build them a new home in Laguna Vista.

“I would build, he (Clinton) would reimburse me and the very last check is the one he said I forged,” Araguz said yesterday following the court hearing.

Araguz said “we signed six checks the same way” and the last check was the last 10 percent of his profit for building the house.

Despite multiple attempts over several weeks to gather information about this case, Cameron County District Attorney’s Public Information Officer Yvette Vela said the District Attorney, Luis Saenz, declines to comment on it because it is pending trial.

Vela was not immediately available yesterday and Guzman declined comment yesterday in person following the hearing.

Araguz is well known in the area. He was a punter in the NFL for eight years and played for four different teams. He holds the record for the most punts in an NFL game.

A street in Harlingen is named after him. What used to be King Avenue was renamed Leo Araguz Street in June of 1999. It’s the street on which he grew up.

Now he is a profitable home construction builder.

Yesterday, Araguz sat in the public area patiently as Sanchez worked his defensive moves to clear his name.

Araguz’s accusers were not in the courtroom.

The Clinton’s were also not available for comment yesterday.

Attempts to contact Dempsie Clinton at his workplace for comment, including a message left with his secretary requesting him to call the newspaper were unsuccessful.

“This case is about somebody who had a home built and wanted extras done for free,” Sanchez said. “My client agreed to try and do some of those things if he could but it was not part of the contract.”

Sanchez said Araguz was busy and the additions were not part of the con-tract so they never got done.

Sanchez said, as a result, the owners of the home got upset and brought up these forgery charges.

“These charges are a little bogus because throughout the entire process of the building, my client had permission to sign checks for the home owner because the home owner was never available.”

Sanchez said when the house closed and Araguz was owed his final payment, he cashed the check like he had always done.

He said the money belonged to Araguz and the home was complete 100 percent.

“The owner and his wife were never available, Sanchez said. “It was easier for them to have him (Araguz) sign.”

Sanchez said Araguz has lost business, he got jailed, arrested in front of his family and has never been in trouble before.

“This is not the classic story of someone who wrote a check to get money,” Sanchez said “This is a story about my client getting paid for work he did for the homeowner who signed and approved the work was done.”