Sullivan City received a federal grand jury subpoena in May for information on several public officials from western Hidalgo County.
The subpoena requested documents on corporations owned by La Joya school board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas, Peñitas Chief of Staff Andres “Andy” Morales and Agua Special Utility District General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz.
“Whenever the government acts like this, it’s not: ‘We’re looking for something,’” said attorney Rick Salinas of Mission. “It’s: ‘We’re dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.’”
La Joya ISD, Agua SUD, the city of Mission and the city of Peñitas also received grand jury subpoenas in May. The subpoenas requested information on more than a dozen public officials or corporations affiliated with them.
“I’ve never seen so many elected officials that, all of the sudden, had an attorney prepare an LLC for them that, coincidentally, is engaged in doing work for these municipalities,” Rick Salinas said. “They can convince themselves all day that it’s legal, but somewhere, obviously, there’s an issue. The government wouldn’t go through this effort if it was all OK.”
The subpoenas, along with other information obtained by the Progress Times, suggest the FBI and federal prosecutors are conducting a wide-ranging investigation of public corruption in western Hidalgo County.
Sullivan City received the subpoena on May 20. It came with a standard warning.
“You are not to disclose the existence of this directive,” according to the subpoena. “Any such disclosure would impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.”
Within hours, the subpoenas became the talk of western Hidalgo County anyway.
The Progress Times filed public information requests for the subpoenas on May 21. Peñitas and Sullivan City requested decisions from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
The Sullivan City subpoena requested information on:
Maya’s de Oro LLC
La Joya ISD school board President Oscar “Coach” Salinas owns Maya’s de Oro LLC. His wife, Alma, became the mayor of Sullivan City in May 2021.
Oscar Salinas created Maya’s de Oro LLC in 2017, when he opened a drive-thru convenience store and restaurant in Sullivan City.
He also conducted other business through Maya’s de Oro LLC.
In January 2018, the city of Peñitas started paying Maya’s de Oro LLC to provide the city with public relations services.
Peñitas paid $83,250 to Maya’s de Oro LLC from January 2018 to May 2021, according to documents released under the Texas Public Information Act. The city paid another $22,672.25 to Oscar Salinas directly.
In February 2019, Mercedes-based L&G Consulting Engineers hired Maya’s de Oro LLC to “engage in Professional Services associated with sales,” according to the contract, which surfaced during litigation between La Joya ISD and an insurance agent.
L&G Consulting Engineers paid $8,000 per month to Maya’s de Oro LLC.
CEO Jacinto Garza fired Oscar Salinas after he sent a series of profanity-laced text messages about local politics.
“Based on this txt you sent me, I don’t need to renegotiate any contract with you and also we at L&G do not condone this type of politics,” Garza wrote. “Your employment was based on helping out the current commissioner but I believe this is no longer the case. I will send you your last chk on Monday.”
Oscar Salinas said neither he nor Maya’s de Oro LLC is paid by Sullivan City.
Peñitas Chief of Staff Andres “Andy” Morales and RGV Redlight LLC
Andres “Andy” Morales is a major player in western Hidalgo County politics.
Peñitas created a chief of staff position for Morales in 2015, when voters elected Mayor Rodrigo “Rigo” Lopez.
Morales worked closely with Peñitas City Manager Omar Romero. They also moonlighted as consultants.
In March 2017, Morales created RGV Redlight LLC, according to documents filed with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. Romero created his own company, Government Asset Services LLC, that October.
RGV Redlight LLC provided La Joya ISD and Agua SUD with “fleet management and consulting” services, according to documents released under the Public Information Act. Morales and Romero also partnered on a project to create a police department for the Valley View Independent School District.
Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested Morales in May. He’s charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and three counts of making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm.
Morales pleaded not guilty. Attorney Ricardo Montalvo of McAllen, who represents Morales, declined to comment.
Sullivan City hired Morales to handle a wide variety of projects, said Mayor Alma Salinas, including the purchase of new vehicles.
“He makes sure that we get the best deals on a lot of stuff,” Alma Salinas said.
Agua SUD General Manager Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz, CSJ Group and Synergos Consulting LLC
Jose E. “Eddie” Saenz owns CSJ Group and Synergos Consulting LLC.
Agua SUD hired CSJ Group in October 2016 to provide the utility district with engineering services, according to documents released under the Public Information Act.
In January 2018, after then-General Manager Richard LeFevre abruptly resigned, Agua SUD amended the contract with CSJ Group to make Saenz the interim general manager.
Agua SUD amended the contract again in September 2018 to make Saenz the general manager. The utility district agreed to pay him $17,500 per month.
Saenz, though, continued working for other clients, including the city of Peñitas, where he served as city engineer.
Sullivan City also called Saenz whenever the city needed an engineer, but Saenz said he wasn’t under contract.
“I help them every once in a while,” Saenz said.