The ongoing corruption scandal in the West has now added one more person to the list of defendants.
A federal grand jury indicted Veronica O’Caña on Tuesday. She was arrested the following day.
According to the indictment, Veronica O’Caña stands accused of witness tampering, violating the travel act, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. She appeared in court Thursday morning in shackles.
In a court hearing Thursday morning, U.S. Magistrate Judge Nadia S. Medrano read the charges.
You are charged with counts 3-5. Count 3, from on or about January 18, 2018, and continuing through on or about March 5, 2018,” and continued with the violation of Title 18, US Code, Section 1956(a)(1), “to knowingly conduct a financial transaction which in fact involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, that is bribery of a public official, namely a Mission Consolidated Independent School District Board Member, to promote the carrying on of said specified unlawful activity or knowing that the transaction was designed in whole or in part to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds of said specified unlawful activity.
Count 4, on or about January 31, 2018, willfully did use and cause to be used a facility in interstate and foreign commerce namely a cellular phone, with the intent to promote, manage, establish, carry on, and facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, and carrying on of unlawful activity, namely bribery and money laundering against Mission Consolidated Independent School District.
Count 5, on or about April 5, 2022, did knowingly and corruptly attempt to obstruct, influence, and impede an official proceeding by attempting to influence Antonio Gonzalez, III to state that bribe payments made to you were for real estate or interior design consulting.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the penalty for witness tampering and conspiracy to commit money laundering is “imprisonment for not more than 20 yrs. And/or a $250,000.00 fine and at least a 3 yr. SRT (as to each count).” The penalty for violating the Travel Act is “imprisonment for not more than 5 yrs. And/or a $250,000.00 fine and at least a 3 yr. SRT (as to each count).”
The case against Veronica O’Caña is part of a federal investigation that uncovered widespread corruption in western Hidalgo County. More than ten people have already pleaded guilty, including two city of Penitas administrators, two former La Joya school board members and other businessmen.
O’Caña is the sister of Jorge O’Caña Jr., who was previously arrested and is listed as defendant 1 in this indictment, and sister of County Court-at-Law Judge Patricia “Patty” O’Caña-Olivarez. She is represented by David Acosta of the Law Office of Ayala & Acosta, P.L.L.C. in McAllen.
After a brief hearing, and considering the charges, Medrano, the magistrate judge, set an unsecured bond of $50,000.00. An unsecured bond does not have to be paid as long as the defendant makes all court appearances.
“This is not a violent charge, more importantly, you have no criminal history, and you turned yourself in yesterday.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto “Bobby” Lopez Jr., said the government had no opposition to bond or travel within the United States, however, restrictions were made to include travel within the state of Texas.
“I will restrict travel to the state of Texas, if you need to travel beyond Texas, your attorney may file a request on your behalf,” stated Medrano.
The next hearing is scheduled for Friday, December 9, at 1:30.