Federal Authorities Arrest Crystal City Officials and a Texas Businessman in Connection with a Bribery and Kickback Scheme
This morning, authorities arrested five current and former Crystal City, TX, officials and a Texas businessman on federal bribery charges in a scheme involving city contracts announced United States Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr., and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.
A federal grand jury indictment, returned yesterday and unsealed today, charges City Manager and City Attorney William James Jonas, III, age 54; Mayor Ricardo Lopez, age 40; Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, age 43; City councilman Roel Mata, age 44, and former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, age 45; and, Ngoc Tri Nguyen, age 38, with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving an entity receiving over $10,000 in federal funds. Jonas is also charged with three substantive federal programs bribery charges; the remaining defendants, with one substantive federal programs bribery charge each.
The indictment alleges that since February 2015, Jonas, Lopez, Rogelio Mata, Roel Mata and Urrabazo used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City. According to the indictment, Jonas managed the bribery scheme, in which a contractor provided bribes totaling more than $12,000 to Jonas, Rogelio Mata, Roel Mata, and Urrabazo, in exchange for their votes for a City contract. The indictment also alleges that Nguyen provided payment directly to Lopez, including $6,000, in exchange for various official acts from Lopez and Jonas. The indictment further alleges that Jonas proposed a kickback scheme to an attorney, in which that attorney would pay Jonas a portion of the legal fees paid by an entity seeking a contract with the City. In exchange for Jonas securing these bribes, Lopez, Rogelio Mata, Roel Mata, and Urrabazo allegedly voted to award Jonas a lucrative contract to serve as both City Manager and City Attorney.
“This case represents our continuing commitment to investigate and punish those who corrupt the process of fair and open government, and to root out the corrosive effect of government officials who sell their office and the public trust they hold for their personal gain,” stated United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr.
“While most public officials faithfully promote the interests of the communities they serve, today’s arrests should serve as a powerful reminder that officials who abuse their authority will be held accountable,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today. It contributes to the cynicism we are seeing from members of the public who often feel as though all politicians are corrupt and the government does not serve the needs of those citizens who can’t pay for access to their elected officials.”
“Public corruption erodes the trust that citizens place in government officials. We are glad to work together with our federal partners to investigate and arrest those who violate that trust,” stated San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.
Upon conviction, each defendant faces up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine. All of the defendants, with the exception of Jonas, Urrabazo and Nguyen, were arrested this morning in Crystal City without incident and taken to the federal courthouse in Del Rio for their initial appearance. Jonas and Urrabazo were arrested this morning in San Antonio. Nguyen was arrested this morning in Keller, TX.
This ongoing joint investigation is being conducted by the FBI and the San Antonio Police Department with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigative Division and the Texas Rangers. Individuals who have first-hand information about corruption, fraud, or bribery related to Crystal City are urged to contact the FBI at (210) 225-6741.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Hulings and William R. Harris are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.