PENITAS, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The mayor of Penitas pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with the La Joya Independent School District, a release states.

Rodrigo Lopez, 38 of Penitas, admitted that in 2018 he aided and abetted the La Joya ISD athletic director in committing fraud against the district.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms, and explosives, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Department of Insurance and McAllen Police Department.

The fraud was committed through Lopez’s company, Xizaka LLC, which was used to respond to an LJISD solicitation for athletic supply vendor bids. The mayor was approved for those bids.

According to the report, LJISD purchasing procedures require employees to disclose personal or financial interest in connection with bids to the superintendent. As an LJISD employee, Lopez failed to do so. The Penitas Mayor also failed to submit the required conflict of interest questionnaire disclosing his interest as a vendor prior to entering into transactions with LJISD.

LJISD purchasing procedures require competitive bids for purchases more than $15,000. The districts purchasing procedures and state law also require competitive procurement mechanisms for contracts of goods greater than $50,000 per year.

As a vendor, Lopez sold approximately 156 baseball gloves, 15,400 square feet of turf and three pitching machines to LJISD between March and August of 2018. The goods totaled about $70,010, the release stated.

“In efforts to approve the inflated costs associated with those purchases, Lopez fraudulently submitted over 20 separate invoices to the La Joya athletic director in an effort to aid and abet circumventing of competitive procurement procedures and subsequent approval of the invoices,” the release stated.

Lopez fraudulently received at least $34,923 in profits and proceeds from the LJISD, as a result of the fraudulent approvals. The mayor agreed to pay restitution in that amount.        

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted the plea and set sentencing for Oct. 31. At that time, Lopez faces up to 10 years in prison. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. is prosecuting the case.