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Trial postponed in western Hidalgo County corruption case

An engineer charged in the western Hidalgo County corruption case will not head to trial until after Election Day.

Jury selection in the case against Mariano Garcia, 49, of Mission had been scheduled for Nov. 2.

Mariano Garcia, center in the black mask, during a La Joya Economic Development Corp. meeting in January 2022. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / The Progress Times.)

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, however, filed a “Sealed Agreed Motion for Continuance of Trial Setting” on Oct. 24. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez granted the motion — and canceled jury selection.

Why prosecutors requested a continuance remains unclear.

Neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office nor attorney Heriberto “Eddie” Medrano of Harlingen, who represents Garcia, responded to requests for comment.

The Agua Special Utility District hired Garcia’s company, M. Garcia Engineering, in March 2018, when the utility board approved an energy savings contract with Performance Services Inc.

Garcia became the “owner representative” for the $11.6 million Performance Services Inc. contract, which involved the installation of LED lights and new water meters.

Prosecutors contend the project was part of a pay-to-play scheme. They brought the case to a grand jury, which indicted Garcia on a federal theft charge in June 2022.

“Defendant gave approximately $249,839.13 to Andres Morales, through RGV Redlight, as instructed by the Agua SUD General Manager,” according to the indictment, “intending to influence and reward said General Manager for his official support and recommendation for Agua SUD to award Defendant’s company a contract to serve as an owner’s representative in connection with an energy savings project.”

Garcia pleaded not guilty.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for Nov. 8.

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