Penitas mayor convicted of defrauding La Joya school district
McALLEN, Texas – The current mayor of Penitas has pleaded guilty to fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Rodrigo Lopez, 38, Penitas, admitted that in 2018 he aided and abetted the La Joya Independent School District (LJISD) athletic director in committing fraud against the district.
Through his company Xizaka LLC, Lopez had responded to an LJISD solicitation for bids for athletic supply vendors. He was approved. LJISD purchasing procedures require employees to disclose personal or financial interest in connection with bids to the superintendent. As an LJISD employee, he failed to do so.
Lopez also failed to submit the required Conflict of Interest Questionnaire disclosing his interest as a vendor prior to entering into transactions with LJISD.
LJISD purchasing procedures require competitive bids for purchases in excess of $15,000. LJISD purchasing procedures and state law also require competitive procurement mechanisms for contracts for goods in excess of $50,000 per year.
As a vendor, Lopez sold approximately 156 baseball gloves, 15,400 square feet of turf and three pitching machines to LJISD between March and August 2018 for a total of approximately $70,010. In efforts to approve the inflated costs associated with those purchases, Lopez fraudulently submitted over 20 separate invoices to the La Joya athletic director in efforts to aid and abet circumventing of competitive procurement procedures and subsequent approval of the invoices.
As a result of the fraudulent approvals, Lopez fraudulently received at least $34,923.70 in profits and proceeds from the LJISD.
Lopez agreed to pay restitution in that amount.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the plea and set sentencing for Oct. 31. At that time, Lopez faces up to 10 years in prison. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and explosives, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Insurance and McAllen Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. is prosecuting the case.