Federal Jury Convicts Two Former Crystal City Officials on Bribery and Wire Fraud Charges
In Del Rio this morning, a federal jury convicted two former Crystal City, TX, officials for their roles in a bribery and kickback scheme which decimated city coffers announced United States Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr. and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio.
The jury convicted 54-year-old former City Manager William James Jonas, III, of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving federal programs, three substantive counts of bribery involving federal programs, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of honest services, five substantive counts of wire fraud and theft of honest services, and four counts of wire fraud.
The jury also convicted 40-year-old former Mayor Ricardo Lopez of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving federal programs, one substantive count of bribery involving federal programs, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of honest services and four substantive counts of wire fraud and theft of honest services.
“By this verdict, a jury of their peers has held these defendants accountable for their inexcusable abuse of the public trust. Corruption of the kind uncovered in this case corrodes confidence in government and undermines our belief that public officials work for our benefit, not their personal enrichment. We are grateful for the jury’s hard work and good judgment, which may restore respect for the work of honest public servants,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.
Testimony provided during trial revealed that between May 2012 and February 2016, Jonas, Lopez, and other city officials used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City. Jonas and Lopez also used emails, texts and phone calls to carry out their scheme to defraud Crystal City and its citizens through bribery and the concealment of information.
Testimony further revealed that Jonas was involved in a wire fraud scheme in connection with a multi-million-dollar debt offering in December 2014, which was intended to pay for various improvements to the City’s infrastructure, including replacing the City’s water meters, certain heating and air conditioning equipment, and lighting. Under various documents relating to the debt offering, Crystal City agreed to place the $2.25 million generated by the sale of the certificates of obligation into separate accounts and to use those funds only for specified purposes. Instead, Jonas caused those monies to be deposited into the City’s General Fund in December 2014, where the funds were used to pay for Jonas’ salary and other unauthorized expenditures.
According to the indictment, the balance in the City’s General Fund after the deposit of the raised funds was $2,207,050.62. The balance in the City’s General Fund on or about October 31, 2015, was $2,199.95. On November 6, 2015 Crystal City still owed approximately $735,048.79 in payments to the company that performed the infrastructure improvements.
Jonas and Lopez face up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy to commit bribery charge, up to ten years in federal prison for each bribery related charge, and up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud related charge. Both were remanded into the custody of the U. S. Marshals pending sentencing, which will be scheduled by order at a later date.
“We would like to thank the San Antonio Police Department who were full partners in this investigation. We also would like to thank the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers for their assistance. This case reflects our commitment to the citizens of Crystal City to aggressively and relentlessly root out criminal corruption in our community,” said Christopher Combs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Antonio Office. “Citizens deserve honest and faithful service from their public officials. Greed and self-interest have no place in public service. Officials who betray the public and violate their oath of office will be thoroughly investigated and exposed. In this effort one of our most important partners is the public, and we encourage honest citizens to report suspicious activity to the FBI at 210-225-6741.”
Four other defendants in this case—former Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, former City councilman Roel Mata, former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, and businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen—each already entered guilty pleas to a federal programs bribery charge and are awaiting sentencing. All face up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine at sentencing.
The FBI, led by a San Antonio Police Department Task Force Officer, conducted this investigation with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigative Division and the Texas Rangers.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Hulings and William R. Harris are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.