Three indicted after six-month investigation, facing charges including bribery

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Three indicted in alleged bribery case, Tracy Clemons reports. (KTRK)

Two elected officials in Fort Bend County and a Houston-area business man have been indicted on more than a dozen charges including bribery. They turned themselves in to the Fort Bend County Jail early Friday afternoon and bonded out around 5pm.

Lamar CISD Trustee Anna Gonzales, Jim Gonzales of IDC Inc., and City of Richmond Commissioner Jesse Torres were all part of a six-month investigation.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office says there are 16 charges between the three of them ranging from bribery, to conspiracy to commit bribery, engaging in organized criminal activity, and tampering with physical evidence.

According to Torres' attorney, Donald Bankston, these allegations stem alleged attempts to bribe two candidates for Lamar CISD Board of Trustees last May.

"This so called bribery was nothing more than fundraising. It was $50 contributions from several employees of a vendor and friends of Jesse Torres," Bankston tells Eyewitness News.

According to the sheriff's office, two then newly-elected trustees filed complaints that Jim Gonzales offered them cash in envelopes. Investigators say former Lamar CISD Superintendent Dr. Dan Ives filed a complaint alleging a "history of misconduct" and "conflicts of interest" between Jim Gonzales and members of Board of Trustees.

Bankston calls the charges bogus and motivated by dirty politics and race.

"This is just a pure bogus effort to take over the Lamar CISD. They're trying to have a political agenda against three dedicated Hispanic public servants by republican operatives who want to destroy three great leaders and public servants," he said.

The allegations are detailed in a news release from the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office:

Three people have been indicted following a six-month investigation following complaints filed by two members of the Lamar CISD Board of Trustees and a former superintendent.

A Fort Bend County Grand Jury delivered 16 indictments this week with charges against Jim Gonzales and Jesse Torres, both of Richmond, and Anna Gonzales of Rosenberg.
Tyson Harrell and James Steenbergen, who were newly elected trustees, filed the complaints after they were offered cash in envelopes by Jim Gonzales.

An additional complaint was filed by former LCISD Superintendent Dr. Dan Ives, who alleged a history of misconduct and conflicts of interest between Jim Gonzales, a principal of IDC, Inc., and members of the school board.

In the June 18, 2015 LCISD board meeting, trustees were to vote to allow the superintendent to negotiate the program management contract between LCISD and Gilbane/IDC. Harrell brought up the issue of cash contributions offered to him and Steenbergen prior to their election in May. The allegation was that Jim Gonzales gave cash to the candidate Steenbergen, who later returned it, and attempted to give cash to Harrell on or about April 9, 2015. IDC, Inc., was a subcontractor of the Gilbane Company, which was the current Program Manager for the district's 2011 bond projects. Gilbane and IDC were ranked No. 1 for the Program Manager bid for the district's 2014 bond projects.

During the investigation, sheriff's office detectives interviewed numerous people who may have had knowledge concerning the allegations and reviewed thousands of pages of records. The results were presented to the Grand Jury, which called on witnesses to be interviewed about the case as well.

In 2013, Anna Gonzales was elected and Jim Gonzales helped her and three others who were elected to the board. Prior to that, Anna Gonzales and Jim Gonzales opened a joint bank account, initially funded by Jim Gonzales with $15,800. They completed rental applications for an apartment in Rosenberg, and Anna Gonzales listed her employment address as that of IDC, Inc., and further listed her position as consultant and her supervisor as Jim Gonzales.

In 2014, Anna Gonzales was appointed to the board's Facilities Committee. Jim Gonzales deposited $167,000 into Anna Gonzales' personal bank account on May 30, 2014. Anna Gonzales used $10,000 of the $167,000 to pay bills between June 2014 and December 2014, at which time she obtained a cashier's check in the amount of $157,000 made payable to Jim Gonzales. Jim Gonzales deposited the check into his bank account. The financial activity and rental agreement showed a relationship between Jim Gonzales of IDC and Anna Gonzales, a school trustee. Investigators determined Anna Gonzales obtained a benefit as a result of this relationship and she could exercise discretion over a contract in which Jim Gonzales had an interest.

Jim Gonzales faces charges of: Bribery, Attempt to Commit Bribery, Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity and Offer Gift to a Public Servant. Anna Gonzales faces charges of: Bribery, Attempt to Commit Bribery and Conspiracy to Commit Bribery (Three Counts), Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, Gift to Public Servant, Abuse of Official Capacity and Coercion of a Public Servant.

Torres is a current member of the Richmond City Commission. He also is a former trustee on the LCISD Board. Torres received $2,500 from individual PBK employees and provided a list of employees which investigators were able to corroborate. PBK is an architectural firm that has designed numerous LCISD facilities. Additionally, Torres solicited $1,000 in donations from family and friends and provided a list of those donors. On a later date, he provided additional documents that he claimed were proof the donations occurred and all the money was returned to all donors. While attempting to verify his list and the reason for the creation of the additional supporting documents, Torres provided inconsistent and false statements.

Additionally, investigators learned that the money was not returned as represented.

Torres faces charges of: Conspiracy to Commit Bribery, Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity, Fabrication of Physical Evidence and Tamper with Government Record with Intent to Defraud.
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