Only two of the elected officials in a remote Texas town were left unscathed after the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrested six members under a federal indictment that accuses them of taking bribes and helping an illegal gambling operator in exchange for favors, the Associated Press reported. Those arrested in Crystal City, Texas include the mayor, the city attorney who is also the city manager, two current councilmen, and a former councilman.
“The indictment alleges that these public officials and this businessman solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for official action, such as voting to award city contracts to, waive certain tax payments by, and conduct certain inspections to give unfair advantage to those paying bribes,” Richard Durbin, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, said in a press release. One of the two remaining top officials was previously arrested on federal charges of smuggling immigrants across the southern U.S. border.
According to the Department of Justice indictment, Crystal City’s officials were accused of using “their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business” since February 2015. The city manager, William James Jonas, III, was accused of managing the bribery scheme, in which a contractor provided bribes worth more than $12,000 to city officials in exchange for a city contract and unfair advantages. Ngoc Tri Nguyen, a city councilmember, was accused of providing payment to Mayor Ricardo Lopez, “including $6,000, in exchange for various official acts from Lopez and Jonas.” Nguyen was allegedly running illegal gambling rooms, as well.
Joel Barajas, the remaining councilman without an arrest warrant, said that the city has about $2 million in unpaid bills and was facing bankruptcy.
“For the time being, they remain the elected officials and the representatives of that city,” Durbin said.
“Crystal City is a good town,” Maria Sanchez Rivera, a lifelong resident told the Associated Press. “If you do wrong, you have to face your consequences. We’ve got laws for everything and we’ve got to abide by what the law says.”