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Press Release

Former Texas School District Employee Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Federal Funds

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas

ALPINE, Texas– A former Valentine Independent School District employee was arrested on criminal charges related to his alleged scheme to fraudulently misappropriate school district funds for personal expenses.

According to court documents, Ernesto Villarreal, 42, of Marfa, is alleged to have fraudulently and improperly used credit cards that were issued by Valentine ISD. The cards were intended for Villarreal to use for authorized purchases in his capacity as business manager and tax assessor/collector.  Instead, Villarreal allegedly used the credit cards for hundreds of personal purchases, including but not limited to purchases for travel, lodging, home improvements, hardware store purchases, personal cell phone bills, fuel, oil changes, convenience store purchases, university tuition payments, and various other unauthorized purchases.

Additionally, Villarreal is alleged to have accessed payroll information for several employees and former employees of the district in order to create fraudulent payroll payments that he sent to his personal bank account. The indictment alleges that Villarreal would change the direct deposit information for employees and former employees and replace such information with his own bank accounts’ direct deposit information. 

Villarreal is charged with one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and eight counts of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for count one and up to 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case, assisted by the Texas Rangers and the Department of Education Office of Inspector General.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Greenbaum is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Updated June 26, 2024

Financial Fraud