U.S. Department of Justice
Chuck Rosenberg * United States Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
Southern District of Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 12, 2005
Nancy G. Herrera
Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney
Phone: 713/567-9301 Fax: 713/718-3415
Public Affairs Specialist
P. O. Box 61129 Houston, TX 77208
Phone: 713/567-9388 Fax: 713/718-3389
PSJA-ISD TRUSTEE INDICTED IN BRIBERY SCHEME
(McALLEN, TX) – United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg today announced the unsealing of a three-count federal indictment charging a local school district trustee and an area contractor with conspiracy to commit extortion, mail fraud and bribery relating to a federally funded government program.
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (“PSJA-ISD”) trustee Guadalupe Jaime Santa Maria, 54, is accused of accepting a bribe from McAllen-area contractor Alonso Cardenas, Jr., 58, in exchange for favorable, official votes and influence regarding PSJA-ISD construction contracts. Both men were arrested by FBI agents early this morning without incident, and are expected to make their initial appearance this morning before United States Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos in McAllen, Texas.
"Every citizen has the right to expect that their public officials will conduct themselves honestly, and with the best interest of the community they serve at heart. Officials who abuse their position of trust for personal gain will face the consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg.
The indictment, returned under seal on July 7, 2005, and unsealed today, charges both defendants with conspiracy to commit extortion, mail fraud, and bribery concerning a federally funded governmental agency. Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District, a government entity which receives federal funds, is located in Hidalgo County, Texas. The indictment alleges that between 2000 and 2004, Santa Maria extorted money and services to use his influence as a school district trustee in the award of school district contracts to contractors.
In addition to the conspiracy count, Santa Maria is charged with two counts of extortion. The second count of the indictment alleges that PSJA-ISD trustee Santa Maria extorted and received a bribe from contractor Cardenas in exchange for the award of a contract to one of Cardenas's companies to perform federally mandated Americans with Disabilities work at PSJA-ISD facilities.
The third count of the indictment accuses Santa Maria of extortion related to use of his influence, including the casting of official votes, for the award of PSJA-ISD construction-related contracts over a course of several years in exchange for labor and materials used to make improvements and repairs to his own home.
If convicted of conspiracy, Santa Maria and Cardenas each face a maximum sentence of five (5) years in federal prison, without parole. Santa Maria faces a maximum sentence of twenty (20) years in federal prison, upon conviction, for each count of the two counts of extortion. Each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
The case was investigated by agents with the McAllen Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Larry Eastepp of the Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.