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March 8, 2010

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(McALLEN, Texas) – County Commissioner Sylvia Sue Handy-Espronceda, 52, has pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to harboring an illegal alien and to making a false statement on her 2005 tax return, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Handy pleaded guilty late this afternoon before United States District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

Handy, a resident of Weslaco, Texas, admitted having orchestrated the fraudulent hiring and employment of an illegal alien from Mexico at Precinct 1, in McAllen, Texas from 2001 to 2007. The illegal alien also provided housekeeping and childcare services to Handy at the County’s expense. Handy also admitted having lied on her 2005 tax return when she claimed a childcare credit for monies paid to an individual who had never worked for her and whom she had never paid.

At today’s re-arraignment hearing, the United States advised the court that had the case gone to trial, it was prepared to present evidence proving that from May 2001 to  March 2007, Handy conspired with others to knowingly harboring and shielding from detection a Mexican national illegally in the United States by providing the alien with unlawful employment at Hidalgo County Precinct 1 under three assumed identities. County funds derived from the falsified employment were used to pay the alien to provide housekeeping and childcare services for Handy. Two of the three persons whose identity had been used for the falsified county employment would have testified they never were employed by Hidalgo County.

Additionally, the government’s evidence would also have proven that on Oct. 16, 2006, Handy did willfully make and subscribe a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return for the calendar year 2005, which she did not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter. That return, which she filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), falsely identified her child care provider as A. M. and claimed a $1,200 credit for child and dependent care expenses. In fact, the child care provider was an illegal alien who had terminated her employment with Handy in December 2004. The materially false statement and claim resulted in a refund payment to Handy.

The true A. M. would have testified she has never sought or obtained employment with Handy, nor had she ever provided housekeeping or childcare services to Handy or her family, or even met Handy.

The conspiracy conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, without parole, and a $250,000 fine, while the false statements on the tax return conviction carries a maximum three-year-prison term and a $100,000 fine. Sentencing is set for June 23, 2010, at 9:30 a.m.

The investigation leading to the indictment was conducted by special agents of the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Rodriguez and F. Andino Reynal.


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