5 officials in Texas city arrested for corruption
February 5, 2016
All but one top official in Crystal City, Texas was arrested Thursday under a federal indictment that accuses them of taking bribes and having city employees perform work at an illegal gambling facility, according to an announcement by United States Attorney Richard Durbin, Jr.
A federal indictment charges City Manager and City Attorney William James Jonas, III, 54; Mayor Ricardo Lopez, 40; Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, 43; City Councilman Roel Mata, 44, and former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, 45; and, Ngoc Tri Nguyen, 38, with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving an entity receiving over $10,000 in federal funds. Nquyen is also accused of running an illegal gambling operation.
According to the indictment, city officials solicited and accepted bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City. 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.
Nguyen allegedly 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, the mayor and council members allegedly voted to award Jonas a lucrative contract to serve as both city manager and city attorney.
Upon conviction, each defendant faces up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
In a separate case about smuggling Mexican immigrants, another councilman was previously arrested. That leaves just one councilman not facing federal charges in Crystal City, a town of about 7,100 people.