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Architect Allegedly Bribed Two South Texas School Districts

Architect Allegedly Bribed Two South Texas School Districts

Architect Jesus Bustos allegedly bribed school board members in two Texas districts–Progreso and Weslaco–for expensive design contracts. 

Bustos’ McAllen-based design company, IDEA Group, performed services for school systems in both towns. A suspended indictment obtained by Breitbart Texas said that in Weslaco, Bustos “paid the WISD Board Member in order to obtain a project for IDEA Group with WISD and to expedite payment to IDEA group on that project.” 

Bustos designed Weslaco’s Mario Ybarra Elementary School in 2009 for $9.7 million, according to reports by The McAllen Monitor

The specific Weslaco board member who allegedly accepted bribes from Bustos is unknown at this time. Local reports state that five individuals were school board members during the time of the alleged scheme, which occurred from 2006 through 2009: Joe Marines, Ivan Perez, David Fox, Robert Sepulveda and Raymond Givilancz. Only one of them appears to have a criminal record. 

Court documents obtained by Breitbart Texas, Marines was previously found guilty of accepting $1,500 in bribe money “from an individual known to him to be interested in the bid process and renovation of Roosevelt Elementary School.” In 2011, Marines was sentenced to three years’ probation.

Breitbart Texas’ calls to the Weslaco School District were not immediately returned. 

Separate from Weslaco, another scheme was allegedly carried out by Bustos in nearby Progreso. In early April, Breitbart Texas reported on a bribery case in the town involving Mayor Omar Leonel Vela, his brother Michael Vela, President of the Progreso Independent School District (PISD), and his father Jose Guadalupe Vela Jr. Omar Vela admitted to accepting more than $300,000 in bribes. Bustos allegedly paid the Velas in order to obtain contractor work. The architect was then apparently paid to provide various services for PISD with a portion of the district’s $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Education. 

An indictment states that Bustos delivered bribe money to the Velas seven times between 2004 and 2011. On one occasion, Bustos allegedly delivered money hidden inside a sunglasses case to the Velas.

The Velas were able to accept bribes, undetected, for many consecutive years due to the power they collectively held in local government. A plea agreement said, “The Velas were able to extract bribes from contractors as a result of their political control of Progreso and PISD… In addition, Jose Vela controlled the PISD School Board by rewarding with bribe money board members who voted as he directed.” 

A spokesman from the City of Progreso told Breitbart Texas that Omar Vela is still currently the town’s mayor. He is expected to step down soon, however. 

“Town commissioners are most likely going to accept Vela’s letter of resignation next week,” the spokesman said. “As of right now, he’s still the mayor. But we don’t pay mayors or commissioners in Progreso.”

Jesus Bustos was initially arrested in January. He is expected to appear in court on Monday.

Bustos Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Marines Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate

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