DEL RIO - A federal jury convicted two former Crystal City officials for their roles in a bribery and kickback scheme on Monday.
The jury convicted 54-year-old former City Manager William James Jonas III, 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.
The jury also convicted 40-year-old former 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.
Testimony provided during trial revealed that between May 2012 and February 2016, Jonas, Lopez, and other city officials used their positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from people seeking to do business in Crystal City.
According to the Department of Justice, Jonas and Lopez also used emails, texts and phone calls to carry out their scheme to defraud Crystal City through bribery and concealing 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. It apparently 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. Instead, the money was deposited into the City’s General Fund in December 2014, where the funds were used to pay for Jonas’ salary and other unauthorized expenditures.
Jonas and Lopez face 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.
Both were remanded in the custody of the U. S. Marshals pending sentencing, which will be scheduled by order at a later date.
Four other defendants in this case, former Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, former City Councilman Roel Mata, former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, and businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen each already entered guilty pleas to a federal programs bribery charge and are awaiting sentencing. All face up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine at sentencing.
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