Former housing exec gets new attorney in fraud case

The former interim executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority, Frances A. Salinas, obtained new legal representation Tuesday after a federal judge granted requests made by her and her former attorney, Fabian Guerrero, to part ways on the case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker on Tuesday granted Guerrero’s motion to withdraw as Salinas’ attorney which he filed last week after Salinas had filed a letter motion for a Marsden Hearing to determine whether she was receiving “adequate representation.”

The majority of Tuesday’s hearing was under seal, thus preventing media and members of the public from listening in, and it was during that portion of the hearing that Hacker heard testimony concerning Salinas’ and Guerrero’s motions.

When they returned to the public portion of the hearing, Hacker announced that he would allow Guerrero to withdraw from the case, citing the serious appearance of a conflict of interest if Guerrero continued to represent her.

To represent Salinas going forward, Hacker appointed Patricia A. Rigney, a McAllen-based attorney who is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.

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

She was arrested in December 2019 and later indicted on two counts of wire fraud stemming from allegations that she agreed to assist another defendant in the case, Sylvia Garces Valdez, obtain a public relations contract with the city of La Joya.

In return for that assistance, Garces Valdez allegedly agreed to pay Salinas a portion of the salary she received through that contract.

The contract was then allegedly approved by her father, who was still mayor at the time, and who is also a defendant in the case. He is also charged with wire fraud.