San Antonio ISD board member Olga Hernandez faces one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The 66-year-old trustee was arrested Thursday in an alleged bribery scheme that deprived taxpayers of honest service, United States Attorney Richard Durbin said.
A federal grand jury indictment alleges that from March 2008 to May 2015, Hernandez conspired with Samuel Mullen, chief financial officer of the Mullen Pension & Benefits Group, LLC; Joshua Cerna, vice president of Strategic Markets for the Mullen Group; and William Haff, a paid independent insurance consultant. They plead guilty to charges in connection to the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said they conspired to defraud SAISD and taxpayers in securing health insurance services contracts for school district employees.
The indictment alleges that Hernandez accepted bribes in the form of cash, jewelry and vacations from the three men. Her vote on numerous services contracts awarded companies with whom the Mullen Group had financial interest, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Hernandez was taken to the Federal Court building in San Antonio and her arraignment was set for March 2nd, at 1:30 p.m. The judge allowed her to be released on certain conditions. She had to turn in her passport and was told not to leave the country.
Hernandez did not have any comments after her court appearance but her attorney, Alan Brown, spoke for her outside the courthouse.
"She's done a lot of good in this community. She's innocent of this charge. I think as everything unravels people will see that," said Brown.
If Hernandez is convicted, she could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez released a statement:
“We are very saddened and disturbed by this news. Since I have been here working with the Board, they have demonstrated a commitment to act with the upmost integrity, to focus on our students and build trust with the community. We are waiting to find out more information, and will be following it closely.”
SAISD board president Patti Radle released a statement:
"The news today regarding Olga Hernandez is alarming to our Board and certainly saddens our spirit. We know nothing about this case other than what we have read in the media."
According to the SAISD website, Hernandez was elected to the Board in May 2006. She is a resident in the district and a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School. She holds an Honorary Life Membership of the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers Association. It states that her husband and two daughters have also graduated from SAISD. Her term expires in 2019.