Federal charges dropped for former La Joya housing official after misdemeanor guilty plea

Sylvia Garces Valdez

The federal government has dropped their case against Sylvia Garces Valdez, the former vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority who was accused of participating in a bribery scheme, after she pleaded guilty to improper influence in state court.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane signed the order to dismiss the charges against Garces Valdez after attorneys for the federal government filed a motion requesting to dismiss the case on Thursday.

The motion came after Garces Valdez, 40, pleaded guilty to improper influence, a Class A misdemeanor, in state court.

Hidalgo County Court-at-law Judge Jaime Palacios sentenced Garces Valdez to two years of community supervision. He also ordered her to pay a $4,000 fee and $22,000 in restitution.

The now-dismissed federal charges against Garces Valdez stemmed from allegations that she bribed former La Joya Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas in exchange for a public relations contract with the city.

Prosecutors alleged that she agreed to pay Salinas’ daughter, Frances A. Salinas, to help her obtain the contract.

Frances A. Salinas then allegedly convinced her father, Jose “Fito” Salinas, to approve the contract.

The former mayor pleaded guilty to wire fraud in relation to the alleged bribery scheme just as he was about to go to trial in July.

Frances A. Salinas and Ramiro Alaniz, another co-defendant in the federal case, also pleaded guilty.

Frances was the former interim executive director of the La Joya Housing authority and Alaniz was the former maintenance director for the housing authority.

Both pleaded guilty to a wire fraud charge related to a kickback scheme that was tied to the construction of a daycare. The construction was a project of the housing authority.

As part of the scheme, Salinas allegedly instructed Alaniz to inflate the billing invoices for the project to hide that Salinas was receiving kickbacks from money loaned to the daycare by the La Joya Economic Development Corporation for the project.

Jose “Fito” Salinas, Frances A. Salinas and Alaniz are currently scheduled to be sentenced in December.

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