Four South Texas Officials Admit Roles in Bribery Scheme

Four South Texas Officials Admit Roles in Bribery Scheme

Four relatives in Progreso, Texas admitted to their roles in a bribery scheme. 36-year-old Omar Leonel Vela, the town’s current mayor, was charged for his role in the pay-to-play scheme with his brother Michael Vela, President of the Progreso Independent School District (PISD), and his father Jose Guadalupe Vela Jr., a supervisor for PISD. The three men pled guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges, according to court records. 

Jose Vela’s third son, Orlando Vela, plead guilty to theft. According to the Associated Press, he submitted invoices to PISD for items or services that were never provided. 

A spokesman from City of Progreso confirmed to Breitbart Texas that Omar Vela is still Progreso’s mayor.  

“Officially, he is still mayor, yes,” the spokesman said. “We’re expecting him to submit a letter of resignation and step down soon.”

The spokesman added that the town does not pay mayors. If and when Vela does step down, the spokesman said, the town will need to hold a special election.

Breitbart Texas reported earlier in April that contractors competing for jobs at PISD were allegedly forced to pay Vela a fee. The companies were then 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 FBI press release also states that Omar Vela ordered a plumbing company to submit fake invoices for work that was never performed. After the company received a government payment of $14,000, the money was turned over to the mayor.  

Court documents claim that the Velas pocketed over $300,000 as a result of their bribes. 

 The Velas’ scheme took place from 2004 through 2013. They were able to bribe contracts, undetected, for so many years due to the collective power they had over local government. 

A plea agreement obtained by Breitbart Texas 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.” 

The Velas aren’t the only Progreso town officials to make news for recent illegal activity.

Breitbart Texas reported on a Progreso school board member, Felix Hernandez Jr., who was allegedly caught with 1,254 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle on April 5. Reports state that a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper pulled Hernandez over for a traffic violation before the discovery was made.

Hernandez is charged with a felony–possession of 50-2,000 pounds of marijuana–and could spend up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Like Mayor Vela, Hernandez still remains in his position at the town. A spokesperson from the Progreso Independent School District, who asked to remain unnamed, told Breitbart Texas that Hernandez has been on the school board for six to eight years and has children in the district. The source claimed that Hernandez will likely be removed from the school board if he is found guilty of a felony.

Vela Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate