A multi-agency law enforcement task force raided and shut down the city hall building of the town of Crystal City, Texas, on Thursday. Five city officials and a Texas businessman were arrested on corruption charges.
The 14-page Federal Indictment (attached below) lists:
- Mayor Ricardo Lopez
- Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata
- City Manager/City Attorney James Jonas III
- City Councilman Roel Mata
- Former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo
- Ngoc Tri Nguyen, a businessman from Keller, Texas
The men are charged with bribery and conspiracy involving more than $10,000 in federal money from the Economic Development Commission, and at least $14,000 in bribes and “loans” to the elected officers. It also alleges that the city officials were soliciting bribes in exchange for votes in city contracts, including an 8-liner gambling room, being promoted by Mr. Nguyen.
FBI Special Agent Chris Combs told reporters on Thursday, “Almost every facet of government in Crystal City had elements of corruption within it. Through our efforts today, the people of Crystal City can now expect to receive a government that services them.”
The sleepy town of 7,200 is the county seat of Zavala County, and sits 115 miles to the southwest of San Antonio. It is best known as the “Spinach Capital of the World”.
The city hall in Crystal City was closed on Thursday, as FBI agents hauled out dozens of boxes of paperwork and records. It is expected to re-open Friday morning.
The narrative contained in the federal indictment states that:
Jonas arranged for a City Council vote to award a $10,000 project to a contractor.
That contractor then offered more than $12,000 in bribes to City Manager Jonas, the Mata brothers, and Urrabazo in exchange for their votes to secure the project. The indictment says that Jonas managed the bribery scheme.
In exchange for payments, Mayor Lopez, the Mata brothers and then-council member Urrabazo to give San Antonio based Attorney Jonas a lucrative contract to serve as City Manager AND City Attorney.
Jonas proposed a kickback scheme to an attorney representing a contractor whereby some of his legal fees from the client seeking to do business with the city would be paid to Jonas and then distributed to the elected officials.
Nguyen gave $6,000 in cash to Lopez to help purchase a car, a “debt” that was forgiven few months later.
Lopez and Jonas then helped Nguyen build an 8-liner gaming room Crystal City, and Nguyen paid them an undisclosed amount of money.
As that business opened, Lopez and Jonas ordered City workers to close businesses competing with Nguyen’s gaming operation. As that was happening, Jonas also ordered city inspectors to “take it easy” as they inspected Nguyen’s establishment.
The men were arrested on Thursday morning by the FBI and Texas Rangers, with Attorney Jonas picked up at his law office in the Quarry development on the San Antonio’s north side, before making an appearance in front of a federal magistrate in San Antonio, along with Mr. Urrabazo. Mr. Nguyen was arrested in suburban Fort Worth, and was then taken to the federal courthouse downtown. Mayor Lopez and the Mata brothers went to the federal courthouse in Del Rio.
Jonas, Urrabazo, Roel Mata and Lopez were all released on $50,000 unsecured bond. Rogelio Mata was denied bond because of a previous DWI charge.
As reported by Breitbart Texas in January, Marco Rodriguez, another city council member, was indicted on Jan. 27 on separate charges related to smuggling undocumented immigrants.
The sole city council member not in legal trouble is Joel Barajas, and he toldKSAT-12 that the people of Crystal City are looking to move forward and they plan on reviewing the city charter for their next step.
KENS-5 San Antonio reporting that while all of the elected officials remain in office for the time being. Crystal City residents will be holding court proceedings on Tuesday in an attempt to recall some of the city council members.
Thursday’s raid included federal and state law enforcement agencies including the FBI, U.S. Border Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and rangers.
If convicted, the men each fines of up to $250,000 and 10 years in federal prison.
Rob Milford is a news contributor for Breitbart Texas. You can follow him on Facebook.