Superseding indictment filed against former La Joya housing officials

A superseding indictment was filed against Sylvia Garces Valdez, the former vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority, which includes the charges filed against Frances A. Salinas, the former interim executive director of the housing authority.

The indictment, filed on Jan. 14, combines the cases of the two women who were arrested last year on allegations that they participated in a bribery scheme through which Salinas allegedly helped Garces Valdez obtain a public relations contract with the city and, in exchange, Garces Valdez allegedly paid Salinas a portion of the money she made from that contract.

Garces Valdez was arrested in August on a count of converting to use the property of another while Salinas was arrested on Dec. 23 on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The superseding indictment lists two counts — converts to own use property of another and wire fraud.

The first was filed only against Garces Valdez and alleges that she gave, offered and agreed to give cash to Salinas so that Salinas could influence “Person B” so that that person could grant a public relations contract to Garces Valdez.

Person B is only identified as an elected official of the city.

The second count in the indictment, the wire fraud charge, alleges Garces Valdez and Salinas intentionally devised a scheme to obtain money through fraud and alleges that for the purposes of the scheme, they communicated via email across state lines, a violation of interstate commerce laws.

The email in question was sent on June 13, 2018 from an email that appears to belong to Garces Valdez to an email that appears to belong to Salinas.

The criminal complaint filed against Salinas in December stated that FBI agents executed search warrants of various email accounts, executed a search warrant at city hall and also obtained text messages sent between the two women.

Based on a review of the messages and emails, investigators allege that from about May 2018 through August 2018, the two discussed the contract and Salinas allegedly indicated that she was working to have it awarded to Garces Valdez.

She allegedly further indicated that she had connections with an unnamed elected official who would ensure the contract’s approval, according to the complaint.

Salinas, 52, is the daughter of former La Joya Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas and current La Joya Commissioner Mary Salinas.

Because she was arrested in San Antonio, she had her initial appearance and detention hearing at the federal courthouse there in the Western District of Texas.

She was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond on Jan. 3 and the case has since been transferred to McAllen which is in the Southern District of Texas.

Garces Valdez was arraigned on Aug. 19 at which point she pleaded not guilty and was released on a $30,000 unsecured bond.

However, following the superseding indictment, Garces Valdez is scheduled to be arraigned again on Jan. 23 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis.