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Former Texas Mayor Gets Life In Prison After California Trial

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - A former Texas mayor who headed a crime family that skimmed money from businesses, cheated a Fresno employees trust fund and avoided paying taxes then killed one of his own to keep him from talking was sentenced to life in prison.

Mark Crawford, 44, showed no emotion Monday as he heard the sentence from U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger in a nearly empty federal courtroom.

Crawford's sentence for the murder of Nick Brueggen, racketeering and fraud is life without the possibility of parole.

Asked by Wanger whether he had anything to say before sentencing, Crawford responded, "Nothing on my own behalf, your honor, but thank you for your leniency toward my brother."

Last week, Wanger sentenced Crawford's brother, John, to 41 months in prison after his conviction in the case for wire fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and perjury.

Brueggen, 49, was stuffed into a large tool box, asphyxiated and buried behind a Texas warehouse May 6, 1996. At the time, he had begun cooperating with federal investigators in Fresno who were looking into an insurance-fraud case involving a company headed by Mark Crawford, former mayor of Ingleside, Texas.

The company, Viking Casualty Co., bilked Ararat International Administrators of Fresno out of employee-welfare benefit plan premiums estimated at several hundred thousand dollars.

The judge also ordered to make $900,000 restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, which investigated the case, and gave government prosecutors 50 days to complete the search for other victims in the fraud case.

In December, Frank Bochicchio, 67, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was sentenced to 87 months in prison. One other defendant convicted in the trial last year, Kirk Johnson, is scheduled to be sentenced next month in Brueggen's death.

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