RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — A former mayor of La Joya pleaded guilty to multiple fraud charges on the day his trial was to begin.
On Monday, Jose “Fito” Salinas, 82, was set to appear for his first day of trial in connection to a fraud scheme that court documents say took place while he was mayor of La Joya, a position he served from 2011 to 2019.
The court met on Monday morning to begin the trial and while jurors left for a lunch break, Salinas and his attorney struck a deal with the judge to have a re-arraignment.
At this time, Salinas pleaded guilty to committing fraud during his time as mayor.
Allegations surrounding Salinas began in December 2019 when Frances Salinas, the former interim executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority and Jose’s daughter, was arrested for acting as an intermediary between city officials.
Frances was set to receive $10 thousand per month from a contract designated for Sylvia Garces Valdez, a friend of Frances’s who was hired to be a public relations consultant for the city. This contract was signed by Jose in June 2018.
Additionally, court documents revealed that from January 2016 to approximately July 2016, Jose devised a scheme that resulted in the City of La Joya purchasing property he owned at a highly-inflated rate.
Jose was arrested for these actions in February 2020 and charged with two counts of wire fraud.
Initially, the former mayor pleaded not guilty, and more than a year of litigation ensued between the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Texas and Jose.
The trial for Jose was scheduled to begin on Monday before he entered the guilty plea.
Jose’s sentencing is set for September 28. The 82-year-old could face up to 20 years in federal prison.