Former City Attorney and City Manager of Crystal City, TX, Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bribery and Kickback Scheme

Former City Attorney and City Manager of Crystal City, TX, Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bribery and Kickback Scheme

In Del Rio today, a federal judge sentenced the former City Attorney and City Manager of Crystal City, TX, to 420 months in federal prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme which decimated city coffers announced United States Attorney John F. Bash and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Alia Moses ordered that 56-year-old William James Jonas, III, pay $1,047,814.05 restitution to Crystal City and forfeit to the Government $17,291.73.  Judge Moses also ordered that Jonas be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.

“Today Judge Moses imposed a just sentence for Mr. Jonas’s staggering betrayal of the public trust—a betrayal that left Crystal City nearly insolvent. But this was surely not an isolated incident.  My office is committed to rooting out public corruption throughout Central and West Texas,” stated United States Attorney John F. Bash.

On June 26, 2017, a federal jury convicted Jonas of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving federal programs, three substantive counts of bribery involving federal programs, 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.  Jurors also convicted former Crystal City Mayor Ricardo Lopez of one count of conspiracy to commit bribery involving federal programs, one substantive count of bribery involving federal programs, 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.  Both Jonas and Lopez were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service following the guilty verdict.

Testimony provided during trial revealed that between May 2012 and February 2016, Jonas, Lopez, and other city officials used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City.  Jonas and Lopez also 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.

Testimony further revealed that Jonas was involved in a wire fraud scheme in connection with a multi-million-dollar debt offering in December 2014, which was intended to pay for various improvements to the City’s infrastructure, including replacing the City’s water meters, certain heating and air conditioning equipment, and lighting.  Under various documents relating to the debt offering, Crystal City agreed to place the $2.25 million generated by the sale of the certificates of obligation into separate accounts and to use those funds only for specified purposes.  Instead, Jonas caused those monies to be deposited into the City’s General Fund in December 2014, where the funds were used to pay for Jonas’ salary and other unauthorized expenditures.

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 to the company that performed the infrastructure improvements.

“We would like to thank the San Antonio Police Department who were full partners in this investigation. We also would like to thank the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers for their assistance.  This case reflects our commitment to the citizens of Crystal City to aggressively and relentlessly root out criminal corruption in our community,” said Christopher Combs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s San Antonio Office.  “Citizens deserve honest and faithful service from their public officials. Greed and self-interest have no place in public service.  Officials who betray the public and violate their oath of office will be thoroughly investigated and exposed. In this effort one of our most important partners is the public, and we encourage honest citizens to report suspicious activity to the FBI at 210-225-6741.”

Today, Judge Moses also sentenced businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen to 17 months incarceration (time served) for his role in the fraudulent scheme.  Judge Moses also ordered that Nguyen be placed on supervised release for a period of three years and that he forfeit to the Government $4,803.  Judge Moses also ordered Nguyen to pay $6,000 restitution as well as a $40,000 money judgment.  In May 2016, Nguyen pleaded guilty to a federal programs bribery charge admitting that he paid $6,000 in bribes in exchange for various official acts from his co-defendants.  Nguyen has remained in custody since January 2017.

Lopez faces up to five years in federal prison for the conspiracy to commit bribery charge, up to ten years in federal prison for each bribery related charge, and up to 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud related charge.  Three other individuals—former Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, former City Councilman Roel Mata and former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo—have pleaded guilty to a federal programs bribery charge and face up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.  Sentencing for all four former city officials is scheduled for June 11, 2018, in Del Rio before Judge Moses.

The FBI conducted this investigation with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigative Division, the Texas Rangers and the San Antonio Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney William R. Harris is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.

Source;  U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Texas