Criminal Justice

High-paid city attorney is accused of securing bribes for city officials to approve his contract

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A San Antonio lawyer is accused in a federal indictment of securing bribes for top Crystal City, Texas, officials in exchange for a lucrative contract to serve as both city manager and city attorney.

The lawyer, William James Jonas III, defended his high salary of $216,000 last fall, the San Antonio Express-News reports. “Forces bigger than me brought me here,” Jonas said then, “and it will take forces bigger than me to get me out.”

Jonas is now charged in an alleged bribery conspiracy along with three other top Crystal City officials: Mayor Ricardo Lopez, Mayor Pro-Tem Rogelio Mata, and city councilman Roel Mata. The Associated Press also has a story; a press release is here and the indictment is here (PDF).

Also charged were former city councilman Gilbert Urrabazo and Ngoc Tri Nguyen, a businessman who operated gaming rooms in Crystal City who was known as “Mr. T.”

Jonas is accused of taking bribes from contractors who wanted city contracts and of securing bribes for the other charged city officials. He is also accused of proposing a kickback scheme in which a contractor would hire an attorney to negotiate a contract with Crystal City, and the attorney would pay Jonas part of his fee.

Jonas was hired as city attorney for Crystal City in May 2012, and his duties were expanded to include those of city manager in July 2014, according to the indictment.

Only one city councilman—Joel Barajas—is not facing federal charges, CNN reports. A second city councilman is charged in a separate case with smuggling Mexican immigrants, according to the AP story.

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