WESLACO, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A former administrator who embezzled $55,000 from the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council may not spend a single day in prison.

Glenda Garcia, 45, of McAllen — a former assistant director who supervised the regional police academy — was sentenced to eight years in prison.

“However, the Court, after due consideration, is of the opinion and so finds that the ends of justice and the best interests of the public and the Defendant are served in this cause if the imposition of the sentence is suspended,” according to a judgment signed in May, “and the Defendant is placed on community supervision under the direction of the Court.”

The suspended sentence allowed Garcia, who spent just two days in the Hidalgo County jail after her arrest, to avoid prison.

Garcia didn’t respond to requests for comment. Manuel “Manny” Cruz, the executive director of the development council, said he couldn’t comment on the case against Garcia.

Cruz, though, said the development council had procedures in place to prevent such an incident from happening again.

The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, an association of local governments that serves Hidalgo County, Cameron County and Willacy County, runs a regional police academy.

Garcia became the assistant director of the police academy in January 2017, according to documents the development council released under the Texas Public Information Act.

At the time, tuition cost $2,200 per cadet. Garcia collected the tuition payments.

“Cash payments were made by cadets at various locations including multiple LRGVDC meeting rooms and at times, off-site satellite training locations,” according to an internal investigation conducted by the development council. “Cash payments were found to be held in a small money box located in the police academy office suite without prompt transfer to finance department.”

Cadets also paid with checks and money orders.

On Oct. 17, 2017, the development council received a call from a bank.

“The financial institution’s staff member stated that several transactions (checks/money orders) had been deposited into the Assistant Director’s personal checking account and had appeared to have been altered; modifying the ‘pay to the order of’ field,” according to the internal investigation. “They also noted the ‘memo’ field indicated tuition.”

Garcia abruptly resigned three days later.

After conducting an internal investigation, the development council determined $100,000 to $150,000 in cash payments were “unaccounted for.”

The development council never determined exactly how much money Garcia had embezzled.

“The Assistant Director deleted all computer hard-drive documents,” according to the internal investigation. “Additionally, many of the ‘paper-file’ versions of notebooks have been declared missing.”

After completing the internal investigation, the development council asked the Texas Rangers to conduct a criminal investigation.

The Texas Rangers subpoenaed Garcia’s bank records, which showed that she deposited money orders that had “tuition” and “tuition payment” written on them, according to documents released by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

During the investigation, the Texas Rangers also reviewed personal documents Garcia left at the development council when she resigned.

“I reviewed these documents and located documents pertaining to furniture purchased partially with cash,” according to a report written by the Texas Ranger who handled the case. “The cash is suspected to be proceeds obtained by theft or deception” from the police academy.

Other documents suggested Garcia paid for a party with cash that she embezzled from the police academy.

After reviewing the bank records and interviewing development council employees, the Texas Rangers put the amount of missing money at $55,445.

A grand jury indicted Garcia in March 2020. She pleaded guilty to theft of property, a second-degree felony.

Garcia faced 2 to 20 years in prison.

State District Judge Israel Ramon Jr. sentenced Garcia to eight years in prison but suspended the sentence, allowing Garcia to spend eight years on community supervision instead.

Garcia was also fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $55,445 in restitution.