Edcouch elected official charged with theft

An Edcouch elected official is expected to turn himself into police Wednesday morning on a charge of theft by a public servant, officials say.

Place 5 Alderman Lorenzo “Lencho” Cabrera is expected to turn himself into Edcouch police Wednesday morning after a warrant was issued for his arrest, Edcouch City Manager Victor Hugo de la Cruz confirmed Tuesday evening.

Cabrera is being charged with theft by a public servant, a Class A misdemeanor, for allegedly improperly claiming a mileage reimbursement from the city after attending a Texas Municipal League conference in 2019.

The incident was uncovered as city staff were conducting a fiscal audit, de la Cruz said.

“Somebody approached me that Mr. Cabrera had gone to a conference with (Assistant City Manager) Manny Hernandez and that he had used mileage,” de la Cruz said.

According to the city manager, the pair had traveled to the conference together. Hernandez, a city staffer, had submitted documentation to be reimbursed for mileage, but so did Cabrera, de la Cruz explained.

De la Cruz said he conducted an investigation after being tipped off to the incident and subsequently found evidence that the city had issued Cabrera a check for about $200.

The city manager said Edcouch staff have been working to catch up on a series of fiscal audits.

Each fiscal year ends on Sept. 30 and municipalities typically hire outside firms to audit their finances about three to four months after that date. But Edcouch had fallen behind by years, amassing a four-year backlog, de la Cruz said.

During the auditing process, someone disclosed the alleged incident with Cabrera — not to the auditors, but to de la Cruz himself, the city manager said.

“I reported this to the PD. PD did an investigation,” de la Cruz said.

After Cabrera failed several times over the last few days to meet with investigators voluntarily, Municipal Judge Juan Ramos issued a warrant for his arrest.

Cabrera is expected to turn himself in to police and then make an initial appearance before the judge Wednesday morning. Attempts to reach his attorney were unsuccessful.

News of Cabrera’s pending arrest comes just days after de la Cruz placed Edcouch police chief, Roel Guerra, on indefinite suspension without pay.

Edinburg police arrested Guerra last Friday on a domestic violence charge in relation to an alleged assault against his wife.

The city is also slated to begin early voting later this month in a hotly contested election that has thus far generated a myriad of vitriolic social media posts, as well as a lawsuit by some of the candidates against the city.

De la Cruz referred to the headline-generating events as “rough” times for the city.

“I really don’t like this going on in the city of Edcouch, especially with the last week that we’ve had,” de la Cruz said.

“I think that people need to be on their best behavior all the time. I say it again: (if) you represent Edcouch, you represent Edcouch 100% of the time,” he said, echoing a comment he made in the wake of the police chief’s arrest.