McALLEN, Texas – A high ranking public housing official in rural La Joya is facing charges for allegedly offering bribes to secure a marketing contract.
Over the weekend, agents with the FBI and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG) arrested Sylvia Garces Valdez, the vice-chairwoman of the La Joya Housing Authority Board and an employee at the La Joya Independent School District.
The arrest comes after an investigation by FBI and HUD-OIG agents that resulted in a criminal indictment alleging that Garces Valdez “agreed to give cash to Person A intending to influence and reward Person B, an elected official for the City of La Joya, for their influence in granting a public relations contract.” Persons A and B are not identified in court documents. After the arrest, a U.S. federal judge set bond at $30,000.
The case was first reported by Dave Hendricks from the Progress Times, who tied Garces Vadez with La Joya Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and his daughter, Frances Salinas, who has served on the local school board. In June 2018, La Joya hired Garces Valdez to manage social media accounts, compose news releases, and maintain the City’s website. According to Hendrick’s reporting, Garcez Valdez’s contract included an “unusual clause” where the City would pay a $12,000 retainer as soon as she accepted the job. The contract ended five months later after Garces Valdez and Frances Salinas had a falling out, the Progress Times reported.
Earlier this year, a jury in a federal trial convicted the former La Joya Police Chief Geovanni Hernandez of several drug trafficking charges for his role in protecting loads that he believed were tied to the Gulf Cartel. Court testimony at the time pointed to Hernandez often bragging about being friends with a former leader of the cartel. Hernandez is now serving a 20-year prison sentence.
La Joya is the same city that in 2014 was the scene of a three-hour standoff and shootout where 29-year-old Joaquin “El Cruzador” Cibrian, a prison gang member working for the Gulf Cartel, died in a hail of gunfire after shooting two police officers. That shootout began when detectives from another city tried to arrest Cibrian for the execution of a 19-year-old man from Mexico over a stolen cocaine load. After shooting the two officers, Cibrian barricaded himself in a house until SWAT officers killed him.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and senior Breitbart management. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.
Brandon Darby is the managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and senior Breitbart management. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.