Former La Joya school board member pleads guilty to federal charge

More than seven months after his arrest, a former La Joya School Board trustee has pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge.

 

On Wednesday, Juan “J.J.” Garza pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a possible fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced July 26 by U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

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Garza originally faced eight counts of wire fraud following an arrest by federal agents September 2016. In an interview Wednesday, Garza said he was confused by details of his plea deal where he now only faces one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

 

“My plan was to plead guilty, I don’t have the money to continue to fight this,” Garza said. “Hopefully I’ll get probation.”

 

The original eight-count indictment against Garza states that between July 2012 and March 2013, Garza and local contractor Armando Jimenez submitted false bids so Jimenez Construction would win the bidding for construction projects for the Alamo and Donna housing authorities.

 

The false bids were submitted under the names of Crane Construction and Carlos Orillana, according to the indictment.
Following the indictment, Garza was suspended from his $69,000 a year position as director of the La Joya Housing Authority before ultimately being fired during a December housing authority board meeting.

 

The charges against Garza were unrelated to his duties with the La Joya Housing Authority and the La Joya school board, from which Garza resigned in March. At the time of his resignation he said he wanted to better focus on his legal problems.

 

Garza expressed relief by his plea deal.

 

“I feel a lot better,” Garza said,” I knew there were no more [delays] and I just wanted to move on and I am. I don’t plan to go back to politics or to the school board. That’s it for me.”

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