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August 10, 2006
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Former El Paso FBI chief accused of lying goes on trial

The Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas- A federal prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that the former El Paso FBI chief on trial for lying to federal investigators was too close to a Mexican racetrack owner-turned FBI informant and accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from the man without reporting them.

Hardrick Crawford Jr., who is on trial on charges that he lied about the gifts, his relationship with the track owner and his wife's job at the racetrack, has denied any wrongdoing.

In opening arguments, federal prosecutor Jim Blankenship told jurors that the former special-agent-in-charge of the El Paso FBI office ignored repeated warnings that his close friend, racetrack owner Jose Maria Guardia, was an informant and was suspected by Mexican authorities of drug trafficking and money laundering.

Crawford's lawyer, Mary Stillinger, countered that the allegations against Guardia, admittedly a close family friend and Crawford's wife's boss, were from dubious sources. As for the allegations that Crawford received gifts, including a country club membership and lavish trips to Las Vegas, Stillinger said Crawford did not do anything wrong. Anything not reported to his bosses, Stillinger said, was either paid for or given to his wife as part of a benefit package she received for her job as an executive with Guardia's company in Ciudad Juarez.

Crawford's trial on five counts of lying to federal investigators is expected to continue through the week. If convicted he could face up to five years in prison for each count.

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