Federal prosecutors revealed new details Thursday about the arrest of Frances Salinas, the former interim executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority.
Frances Salinas — the daughter of former La Joya Mayor Jose A. “Fito” Salinas and City Commissioner Mary Salinas — participated in an illegal scheme to secure a public relations contract, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas. She “acted as an intermediary” between a local elected official and Sylvia Garces Valdez, a public relations consultant who is charged with bribery.
The news release didn’t identify the local elected official.
“If they’re going to blame anybody, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me,” Fito Salinas said, adding that he didn’t do anything wrong.
Fito Salinas said neither he nor his wife had discussed the public relations contract with their daughter.
“There was never, never, any discussion between Frances and us about Sylvia Garces,” Fito Salinas said, adding that he believed Frances Salinas would tell the truth and exonerate him.
Frances A. Salinas, 52, of La Joya was arrested Monday in San Antonio, which is part of the Western District of Texas.
Frances Salinas is scheduled for an initial appearance Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth S. “Betsy” Chestney. After her initial appearance, Frances Salinas will be transferred to the McAllen Division of the Southern District of Texas.
The criminal complaint against Frances Salinas wasn’t publicly available on Thursday. Federal prosecutors, however, summarized the allegations in a news release.
In 2018, the city of La Joya awarded a public relations contract to Sylvia Garces Valdez, a member of the La Joya Housing Authority board.
The contract included an unusual provision: In addition to $2,000 per month, the city would pay Garces Valdez a $12,000 retainer.
Garces Valdez signed the contract on June 13, 2018, according to documents released by the city under the Texas Public Information Act. La Joya quickly paid the $12,000 retainer.
Frances Salinas “claimed to have a direct connection with a La Joya official,” according to the news release. “That individual would allegedly ensure the contract’s approval and any necessary amendments, according to the complaint.”
In addition to securing the contract, Frances Salinas set the payment terms and planned to receive a share of the money, according to the news release. Frances Salinas and Garces Valdez discussed the arrangement in text messages and emails.
The public relations contract prompted questions from the beginning.
Garces Valdez, who worked for the La Joya Independent School District and served on the housing authority board, had no relevant experience. She was, however, a friend of Frances Salinas.
They apparently had a falling-out in 2018, when the housing authority board fired Frances Salinas. La Joya terminated the public relations contract in December 2018.
The FBI arrested Garces Valdez in August. She pleaded not guilty to bribery.
Frances Salinas is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.