HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Harris County District Attorney's Office is encouraging any additional victims to come forward after a former Harris County Precinct 4 deputy was indicted for theft charges.
Bobby Joe Espinosa, 39, was indicted Monday on two counts of bribery and one charge of theft by a public servant of more than $2,500 and less than $30,000.
ABC13 asked prosecutors why it took six months from the time of Espinosa's arrest to indict him.
"In addition to actually gathering evidence for the case and turning it over to the defense attorney, we also did additional investigation into the activities of former Deputy Espinosa. That took a little bit of time. Once we were satisfied with where we were with that investigation, we presented both the original charge and additional charges to the grand jury," Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Harrison in the Civil Rights Division said.
The bribery charges are second-degree felonies - punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison. The theft charge is a third-degree felony with a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Espinosa is accused of threatening employees at Vietnamese businesses in the north Houston area of FM 1960 and Veterans Memorial to give him money between September 2021 and March 2022.
According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Espinosa took $5,700 from cash registers and tip jars at four different businesses and even pried open game machines for cash. Those businesses are B Bida Pool Hall, Cafe Bui, Nha Trang Cafe, and Cafe La Ca.
It is not obvious from the outside what the exact nature of these four businesses are, as three of them have blacked out their windows and locked their doors during posted business hours. When ABC13 rang their doorbell, no one came to the door. Employees at one of the businesses deferred to the owner, who was not present at the time. Prosecutors said they appear to operate as coffee shops with game rooms inside.
Investigators said Espinosa would wear his Pct. 4 uniform during the robberies and disconnect security cameras. He is also accused of soliciting payments from at least two businesses between November 2021 and April 2022 in exchange for not investigating them.
The businesses were often owned and operated by immigrants who were scared because Espinosa was a law enforcement officer, the district attorney's office said.
"He used a badge to coerce, intimidate and steal, and we believe there are more victims who have yet to come forward," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. "The community needs to know that everyone is accountable under the law whether they are wearing a uniform or not."
This past April, Espinosa was charged with theft and fired from his role with Precinct 4.
RELATED: Bobby Espinosa's criminal history
When looking into Espinosa's criminal history, ABC13 found six mugshots for prior arrests through DPS recorded from 2007 and 2015. The DA's office said one of those mugshots was from an arrest in Harris County for driving with a suspended license in 2003.
Additionally, the DA's office said he was arrested four other times in Harris County between 2001 and 2008 for multiple driving violations, such as failure to pay parking tickets or failure to appear.
As for the remaining five arrests recorded by DPS between 2007 and 2015, there are no records detailing those charges or where they took place.
ABC13 asked Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman about Espinosa's prior arrests over the phone back in April, but he said he was out of town and was unable to provide details. However, he said Espinosa was cleared and met the minimum requirements to be hired with Precinct 4 in 2015.
Espinosa's attorney was not reachable for comment. Harrison said Espinosa's next court hearing will likely not happen until the end of the year. Anyone who believes they were a victim of Espinosa is encouraged to call the district attorney's office at 713-274-5910.
"It's not so uncommon when people are being taken advantage of for them to be scared to come forward, especially when it involves a person in a position of authority. We want them to know that this is a safe place to come forward and we can help them seek justice," Gavin Ellis, chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Harris County District Attorney's Office, said.