Constable Trevino's charity: Where'd the money go?

September 23, 2011 5:58:58 PM PDT
"The practice you described, it just on the smell test, doesn't look good. Doesn't take a genius to say that; you don't like it as a policy," Harris County Assistant County Attorney Terry O'Rourke said. There are major developments in our Precinct 6 investigation. The Harris County Attorney's Office is the first to confirm they're looking at Victor Trevino's operation. They acknowledge they have talked to the district attorney's office. And the Better Business Bureau says they been trying unsucessfully for months to get charity records from Constable Trevino's office.

On Tuesday night, we showed you some of the documents we now have, large charity checks turned into cash; no trail of where the cash ended up and the constable continues to defy state law by refusing to turn over requested bank records.
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Tonight at 10pm after Wayne's exclusive report, don't miss your chance to play detective in our brand new 13 Undercover Interactive.
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There's Constable Victor Trevino, waving to the crowd in last weekend's Fiestas Patrias parade.

Last year, he was riding in style in this beauty -- a 1931 Model A, but he can't use that one anymore.

To honor her late husband last year, a widow donated the $35,000 antique car to the constable's charity called CARE.

"To call it my charity I think is also a play with words. It's not my charity," Trevino said.

Pardon us, but wait a second. If it's not his charity, whose is it? Trevino is president, the founder and doesn't know who else is on the charity's board of directors. So how did he get to use the charity's antique car as collateral for a $10,000 loan in his name?

"She was upset that it was used for collateral," Trevino said.

And that's why the car spent this year's parade in a carport in the widow's driveway.

"A big problem, because if it's truly an asset of the non-profit organization, an individual should not be able to use that as collateral for a loan," accountant Bob Martin said.

"This loan was for CARE," Trevino said.

That's the charity Trevino founded to help kids and seniors in the east end.

"You know a lot of folks in the east end that get interest-free loans?" we asked Trevino.

"I wouldn't know about that," he replied.

If you bounce a check to El Guerro Check Cashing, guess who would come arrest you? Deputies from Victor Trevino's office, but the constable says that's not why he got his loan interest-free from the company's president. And the loan is in Trevino's name, not the charity's, and the $10,000 -- it never made it into the CARE bank account.

"I don't know that it wasn't," Trevino said. "It wasn't," we confirmed. "Well, all that is something we are going to have to review," he said.

So where did all that cash go?

"The records, you said it, are sloppy," Trevino said.

We've got a clue from an email we found in a county computer assigned to Trevino's chief deputy, Carolyn Lopez. We're not sure how she knew but she claims $5,000 went for the seniors Christmas gala, $1,500 more for Christmas toys. There's not a single receipt for the events, so what was the money spent on?

"I don't want to get into speculating," Trevino said.

We do know more than $3,400 was paid in cash to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo -- in cash because Trevino had not paid his bills from the last rodeo. Much of the money had been spent on rodeo concerts tickets. And the bill wasn't to CARE, it was to the constable.

"Did you give tickets away to the rodeo this year, to kids, to schools?" we asked Trevino.

"It could have happened. I'll have the staff to check on that," he said.

Why are county employees being used on duty to help run the charity that Trevino founded?

"I'd give you my gut feelings. I know that there's some people here that handled the money. I know that," Trevino said.

We have the emails showing the practice went on for years, and they show the constable was kept informed.

"I just love to work for kids, and I still do it as a hobby," Juan Moya said.

Former green beret Juan Moya loves giving back. Boxing saved him as a troubled kid. Moya ran this year's Golden Gloves boxing tournament on the east side. The co-sponsor -- you guessed it -- is CARE.

"Have you ever seen all the expenses explained?" we asked Moya.

"No," he replied.

And that's because the money was handled by county employees.

"No one has ever raised a question to see who specifically was assigned to what," Trevino said.

Some of the work was clearly done on county time. This emails spells out that evening roll calls will be conducted at the boxing tournament, calls for service dispatched from there. "The rank and file handle much of the logistics," Trevino said.

From emails, we know more than a dozen deputies and commanders were assigned to work the boxing tournament -- some pulled from patrolling neighborhoods or from their posts at public housing projects.

"We help out a lot of charity events," Trevino said.

"On duty?" we asked.

"Yes," he said.

But this event helped CARE. Time sheets show you even paid some of the employees' overtime to do it.

One of the biggest charity checks in the weeks that followed the boxing tournament was made out to a place called Sunrise, a convenience store the constable used to cash checks. This check for $1,375. There's no paper trail about what happened to the money after that.

"All that has an aura of corruption. All that has an aura of misusing money that should be going for legitimate charitable purposes," KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy said.

Thursday night at 10, we move from the charity to the campaign and the possible criminal troubles ahead. And after the news, we'll debut 13 Undercover interactive, where you can follow the investigative trail, play detective, examine the records for yourselves all on abc13.com.

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