Former Webb County Commissioner Convicted
HOUSTON - A former Webb County Commissioner and a former city councilman have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Braley announced today along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs.
Former Webb County Commissioner Jaime Alberto Canales, 51, and John “Johnny” Amaya, 70, owner of JAUC Services Inc. and a former Laredo City Councilman, pleaded guilty in Houston federal court today. Both reside in Laredo.
Canales admitted at least in or about January 2015 through in or about January 2017, an individual gave and agreed to give things of value in order to influence and reward him for his official acts as a Webb County commissioner and Laredo Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) representative. Canales accepted these things of value, intending to be influenced and rewarded for his official assistance. These things of value, which included checks disguised as campaign contributions and personal loans, use of a co-conspirator Padre Island condominium and meals and entertainment, were provided in connection with business and transactions of Webb County and the Laredo MPO well in excess of $5,000.
Amaya owned and controlled JAUC Service Inc. A co-conspirator employed Amaya as a consultant for Corporation A, as listed in the indictment, from in or about January 2011 through in or about April 2017. In this role, Amaya met and spoke with various Webb County and City of Laredo officials to direct them to take actions that benefitted the co-conspirator and corporation. Amaya maintained close contact with officials who could help the conspirator and corporation by setting up meetings and passing messages to and from the conspirator. Amaya admitted he acted as a middleman between the conspirator and public officials. At the conspirator direction, Amaya provided cash payments, personal checks disguised as campaign contributions and meals and entertainment to these officials, including Canales.
All of the payments were reimbursed with the corporation’s corporate funds, either directly or indirectly. At the conspirator direction, Amaya also supported specific candidates in the November 2016 election cycle by providing rental cars, drivers and gas cards for those rental vehicles to transport voters to the polls, all for which the corporation paid.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake accepted the pleas today and has set sentencing for Feb. 14, 2019. At that time, Canales and Amaya face up to five years in federal prison. They were permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Ferko and John Pearson are prosecuting the case.