Four months after a former South Texas city official pleaded guilty to federal theft, authorities indicted the town’s ex-mayor for his part in the same public corruption scheme.

In October of last year, former La Joya City Administrator Mike Alaniz pleaded guilty to a federal theft charge. Alaniz was charged with selling land to the city of La Joya at a price much higher than its market value. At the time, it was still unclear who exactly approved the purchase, with both the city commission and then-Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas pointing fingers at each other and claiming ignorance.

This week, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of now-former Mayor Salinas.

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick announced Salinas was indicted on two counts of wire fraud relating to a public relations contract and the purchase of real property. 

The indictment alleges that, alongside devising a scheme that saw the City of La Joya purchase property he owned at an inflated price far above the market rate, Salinas entered into a public relations contract that funneled money to his daughter. In 2018, the city entered into a public relations contract with Sylvia Garces Valdez. The contract stipulated Valdez would pay a portion of the contract’s payments to Frances Salinas De Leon, the mayor’s daughter.

Valdez and De Leon are former members of the La Joya Housing Authority, with De Leon previously serving as the interim executive director. Both were arrested and charged last year in relation to that contract, entering in pleas of not guilty.

The day after the indictment of Salinas was announced, the recently ousted mayor appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, declining to provide comment. Salinas was voted out of office in November after speculation of his involvement in the schemes that arose earlier that year.

If convicted, Salinas faces up to 20 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

David Vasquez

David Vasquez is a native of the Rio Grande Valley, where he was born and raised in Weslaco, TX. He attended The University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor's degree in Government and a minor in English. Following graduation in 2019, David returned home and began writing for Texas Scorecard.