Crystal City, Texas is a small city of about 7,000 residents, founded by ranchers and farmers. In the early 1900s the railroad from San Antonia to Corpus Christi ran through Crystal City. During World War 2, the small Texas town was known for having the largest internment camp where over 3,300 American citizens of Japanese, German and Italian descent were held captive until the end of the war.
Other than that, life in Crystal City has been relatively quiet, at least on the surface and that surface has since collapsed in the wake of the scandals rocking the tiny town. As of last Friday, the only city official still walking free and showing up to work is Joel Barajas, a member of the city council.
Ricardo Lopez, Mayor of Crystal City, Mayor Pro Tem Rogelio Mata, City Councilman Roel Mata, City Councilman Marco Rodriguez, former City Councilman Gilbert Urrabazo and City Manager James Jonas have been systematically arrested and jailed. The indictments and arrests started back in December 2015 and have now left only Barajas as the sole judicial survivor of what could be called the most corrupt little town in Texas.
Five of the men mentioned above are facing federal felony charges of taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes from an alleged gambling operator buy the name of Ngoc Tri Nguyen who also goes by the name of Mr. T. Rodriguez was arrested and charged for human smuggling. Once arrested, he confessed to being paid to transport illegal aliens from Mexico into the US.
According to the Washington Post:
“According to the indictment, the town leadership ‘used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting payments and other things of value’ from Nguyen and others. The document accuses officials of voting to award contracts in exchange for bribes, extorting payments from contractors, turning a blind eye to Nguyen’s illegal gaming business while taking action to shut down would-be competitors, and agreeing to reduce Nguyen’s taxes in exchange for him waiving debts, among other shady dealings.”
“Mayor Ricardo Lopez, the indictment alleges, instructed city inspectors to ‘make it easy’ while looking at Nguyen’s property. He also made extra effort to shut down other operators of ‘8-liner’ gaming rooms, which are nominally illegal in Texas but flourish informally in the southern part of the state. In exchange, he allegedly accepted $6,000 from Nguyen to buy a car.”
“It also says that Lopez and the other officials — Mayor Pro Tem Rogelio Mata, council member Roel Mata and former council member Gilbert Urrabazo — voted to extend city manager and city attorney William Jonas’s lucrative contract, in exchange for which he supported their various bribery schemes.”
Reading this account of the corruption occurring in this small Texas town, it reminded me of some of the corruption we’ve seen in bigger cities like Chicago. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is from Chicago as was Barack Obama. When Obama was elected to illegally occupy the White House, Blagojevich tried to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder. Obama was the US Senator from northern Illinois including Chicago.
Let’s not forget that former US Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. was from Chicago and represented the Chicago area in the US House. He was convicted of using campaign funds for personal use then trying to cover it up.
In the case of Crystal City, Texas, the town is now being run by one city councilman who has been in office only 9 months until the town figures out what to do and re-elect a new mayor and leadership.