Texas Border Corruption: School Districts Accepted Bribes from Architect

Texas Border Corruption: School Districts Accepted Bribes from Architect

Texas architect Jesus Bustos recently pled guilty to bribing two public school districts, Progreso and Weslaco. Bustos paid off elected officials in the districts in exchange for expensive design contracts. 

Bustos owned a McAllen-based design company called IDEA Group, which performed services for school systems in both towns. The U.S. Attorney’s office believes that the bribery scheme occurred from 2004 through 2013, according to the Associated Press. 

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.” 

Breitbart Texas reported earlier in April that Bustos designed Weslaco’s Mario Ybarra Elementary School in 2009 for $9.7 million. There was allegedly one school board member who accepted Bustos’ bribes, but that person’s name has not been released. 

Town records indicate that the following five board members served during the time span of Bustos’ bribery scheme: Joe Marines, Ivan Perez, David Fox, Robert Sepulveda and Raymond Givilancz. According to court documents, 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.” He was sentenced to several years of probation. 

Bustos’ schemes in Progreso involved 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 from Bustos and possibly others. PISD received $1 million in funding each year from the federal government–those funds were used to compensate Bustos for his design work for the district. 

According to an indictment, the Velas received bribe money from Bustos on seven separate occasions. The family accepted bribes, undetected, for many consecutive years due to the power they collectively held in local government. According to a plea agreement, “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.” 

Jesus Bustos was initially arrested in January. The AP reported that he could spend up to five years in prison for his bribes. He will be sentenced on July 25.

Bustos Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Marines Indictment by BreitbartTexas

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate

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