Conexión Del Río/Staff Report

DEL RIO – A federal grand jury in Del Rio returned a superseding indictment adding new charges against two former Crystal City officials. The indictment, issued on Wednesday, August 10, 2016, brings 10 new charges against former City Manager and City Attorney William James Jonas, III, and five new charges against former City Mayor Ricardo Lopez.

The announcement was made by the office of United States Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr., and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division. 

In February 2016, the federal grand jury indicted 54-year-old Jonas with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and three substantive federal programs bribery charges. The original indictment also charged 40-year-old Lopez with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one substantive federal programs bribery charge.

The new charges against Jonas include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of honest services; five substantive counts of wire fraud and theft of honest services; and, four counts of wire fraud. The new charges against Lopez include one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and theft of honest services; and, four substantive counts of wire fraud and theft of honest services.

The superseding indictment alleges that between May 2012 and February 2016, Jonas and Lopez allegedly used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City. The superseding indictment also alleges that Jonas and Lopez used emails, texts and phone calls to carry out their scheme to defraud Crystal City and its citizens through bribery and the concealment of information. 

The superseding indictment also alleges that Jonas was involved in a wire fraud scheme in connection with a multimillion dollar contract in May 2014 for various improvements to the City’s infrastructure including replacing the City’s water meters, certain heating and air conditioning equipment, and lighting. 

Under the contract, Crystal City agreed to place approximately $2,124,389 in a specific escrow account and only use those funds to pay the provider as phases of the work were completed. Crystal City subsequently issued Certificates of Obligation and raised $2.25 million specifically for the improvements and for costs related to the issuance of the certificates. Those monies were deposited into the City General Fund in December 2014. 

The superseding indictment further alleges that Jonas, despite contract requirements, directed City employees to leave the monies in the City’s General Fund which was then used to pay Jonas’ salary as City Manager and City Attorney, reimburse Jonas for certain expenses, and pay certain favored contractors, among other uses. According to the indictment, the balance in the City’s General Fund after the deposit of the raised funds was $2,207.050.62. The balance in the City’s General Fund on or about October 31, 2015, was $2,199.95. On November 6 2015, Crystal City still owed approximately $735,048.79 in payments under the contract.

Upon conviction, Jonas and Lopez face up to 5 years in federal prison for the conspiracy to commit bribery charge, up to 10 years in federal prison for each bribery related charge, and up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud related charge. Both are out on bond at this time.

Three other defendants in this case —former Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, former City councilman Roel Mata, and businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen— have each already entered guilty pleas to a federal programs bribery charge and are awaiting sentencing. All three remain on bond and face up to 10 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine at sentencing. 

A fourth defendant, former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, is scheduled to have a re-arraignment hearing at 1:30 p.m. on August 25, 2016, in front of U.S. District Judge Alia Moses in Del Rio. Urrabazo, who remains on bond, is charged by the initial indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one substantive federal programs bribery charge.

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.