Friday, October 23, 2020

La Joya Housing Authority Vice Chairwoman charged with bribery


The La Joya Housing Authority Vice Chairwoman is accused of bribing a city official to be considered for a position within the city, the indictment filed against her stated.

Sylvia Garces Valdez allegedly “gave, offered, and 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 to (Garces Valdez),” the court document stated.

Garces Valdez’s allegedly bribed the city official between June and November 2018.

The unsealing of the indictment came shortly after an FBI spokeswoman confirmed her arrest Monday morning at city offices.

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The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury Aug. 13, comes on the heels of FBI agents raiding the La Joya city hall offices.

In its filing against Garces Valdez, the government seeks to seize about $10,000 of the woman’s property derived from “proceeds traceable to such offense,” the record shows.

Related: Coney Island affordable housing bosses got $870K in bribes: authorities

On Friday, agents were seen removing boxes from city administrative offices in connection with an investigation that was not revealed.

Part of city hall was shut down due to the search, disrupting the city’s main phone lines. City staff also had to leave their offices and move to the police department while the search was ongoing.

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Robert Jackson, the former city attorney for La Joya who resigned in 2017, speculated Friday that the agents were investigating misuse of public funds for personal use.

Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas, said he didn’t want to speculate on what the agents were looking into but said he was aware that the FBI had spoken to their former city administrator, Mike Alaniz.

Alaniz retired from the city at the end of June but his attorney, Rick Salinas, confirmed he was the focus of a federal investigation.

Related: Former CEO of Melrose Credit Union charged in bribery scheme

Salinas, the La Joya mayor, said Friday that he was told he had to sign off on the inventory that the agents were going to remove from city hall.

“The thing about it is, how in the heck do I know what they’re taking?” he said. “I don’t keep inventory.”

“We don’t know what’s happening inside the building,” he added, referring to the agents’ search. “How can I sign something if I don’t know what they’re putting in the boxes.”

Of the situation, the mayor said he’d wait it out.

“Politics is politics and I’ll handle it that way,” he said.

Monday before noon, Garces Valdez made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Peter. E. Ormsby, and asked to have an attorney appointed, court notes show.

The court scheduled a detention hearing for later Monday afternoon.

A call placed to the mayor Monday afternoon went unreturned as of this posting.

If convicted of the bribery charge, Garces Valdez could face up to 10 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

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