The Crystal City Clerk has verified a recall petition against three city officials including Mayor Lopez.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
February 12, 2016
Crystal City, Texas – On Friday, Ricardo Lopez, the Mayor of Crystal City and Councilman Roel Mata resigned shortly after the Crystal City Clerk’s office verified recall petition signatures to recall Mayor Lopez, 40, Mayor Pro-tem and Councilman Rogelio G. Mata, 43, and Councilman Marco A. Rodriguez. Rodriguez who was arrested last month for human trafficking and Mata have yet to resign and will face a recall election to oust them from office. The three city officials were among five who were indicted by a federal grand jury for bribery and public corruption charges while in office. Two other city officials who were also indicted are Councilman Roel Mata, 44, and City Manager and Attorney William James Jonas III, 54. Former Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo, 45, and businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen, 38, aka, “Mr. T,” a contractor and business man were indicted as well for bribery and corruption charges.
KSAT 12 reported that Selina Ramos, the City Clerk had refused Mayor Lopez to sign the City Council agenda to make it official. Ramos also left her office and refused to meet with media over the controversy. Lopez says, the City agenda needed to be signed by him in order to become official. Police later confronted Mayor Lopez and told him not to contact Ramos until she contacts him.
Police neither Ramos explained if they had a court order barring Mayor Lopez and the Council from conducting a meeting causing chaos at City Hall on Friday.
Lopez intended to resign after the Council meeting. Councilman Joel Barrajas is the only one who hasn’t been indicted for bribery charges.
Last Thursday, the FBI raided City Hall in Crystal City resulting with the arrest of four City officials including Mayor Lopez, Mayor Pro-Tem Mata, City Councilman Roel Mata and Interim City Manager and Attorney Jonas III, also taken into custody were former City Councilman Urrabazo and businessman Nguyen in connection with taking bribes to help Nguyen, a contractor to establish 8-liner gaming rooms around Crystal City and providing city tax waivers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Texas. The 8-liner gaming operation paid players in cash and the gambling operation is illegal in Texas.
Rogelio, Lopez and Roel were taken into custody in Crystal City, Jonas and Urrabazo were arrested in San Antonio and Nguyen was arrested in Keller, Texas.
Each of the defendants were charged with one felony count each for conspiracy to commit bribery involving an entity receiving over $10,000 in federal funds, in addition, Jonas was charged with three counts for bribery, Rogelio, Roel, Urrabazo, Lopez and Ngugen were charged with one felony count each for bribery. If convicted, each defendant is facing up to 10 years in a federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines for each count.
The FBI also raided the San Antonio office of attorney Jonas to search for evidence connected to the bribing and gaming operation. Jonas who earned $216K per year as the Crystal City Manager allegedly took money from Nguyen in exchange to help facilitate the gaming operation in Crystal City.
The FBI, San Antonio Police, the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection took part in the joint gaming operation bust.
According to the unsealed indictment against the defendants named in the case, the defendants began to conspire to commit favorable action to award city service contracts valued at more than $12,000 to Nguyen beginning in April 2015. Nguyen in return paid Jonas up to $7,791, Urrabazo $2,000, Roel Mata $$2,000, Mayor Lopez received $6,000 to purchase a vehicle and Rogelio Mata up to $500.
The city officials indicted conspired and acted to “waived certain tax payments” for Nguyen and directed Crystal City employees “to close competing businesses and to conduct City inspections to benefit Nguyen,” according to the federal indictment.