Monday, June 01, 2009

DA Watch: Former Jim Wells County DA Joe Frank Garza Spent Millions in Drug Money on Vegas Trips and 3 Secretaries

Down in Alice, Texas, where US Highway 281 runs through on its way from the US -Mexico border through the heart of Texas up to Dallas and beyond, there's lots of drug busts. Law enforcement in Jim Wells County stops all sorts of vehicles on its patch of US 281, confiscating all kinds of drugs -- as well as cash.

Apparently, lots and lots of cash. We're talking millions.

Over Four Million Dollars in Drug Forfeiture Money Was Spent by Former DA Garza on Trips to Vegas and Other Interesting Stuff

Joe Frank Garza was the District Attorney for Jim Wells County for a number of years, until his opponent campaigned in Alic, and elsewhere on issues regarding Garza's spending habits, and beat him in the last election.

Now, new DA Armando Barrera is beginning to report his findings on what was happening with the drug forfeiture money. First, Barrera is reporting that there was no checks and balances here: Garza spent the cash without anyone double-checking what he was doing with it.

And what was Joe Frank Garza doing with all that cash?

Barrera's reporting that Garza spent lots of money on travel to Vegas.
Garza's response is that there were lots of seminars in Vegas. He and
his employees went on lots of seminars ... legal seminars, to educate

Barrera's reporting that Garza spent lots of money on three particular secretaries.
Garza's response is that the cash was for extra pay to lots of folk within his jurisdiction.

The Numbers So Far

The media is reporting these tallies (the audit/investigation is ongoing, this information comes from data provided by Garza to the Attorney General's office) from 2000 - 2007 (excluding 2002) where Garza spent $4.2 million:
  1. $2.1 million was spent on "salary supplements", and while Garza had a staff of 15 who did get bonus pay, Barrera (and the county commissioner heading up the investigation) are reporting that most of this total went to just three people, three secretaries who worked for Garza.
  2. $267,449 on travel.
  3. $581,000 in operating expenses.
  4. $19,987 on equipment.
  5. $154,213 on supplies.
Has a Law Been Violated by Garza?

Garza is adamant that he has done nothing wrong. It was totally within his power to spend this drug money as he saw fit. Right now, state and county laws are being reviewed to see if this is true, or if Garza has violated either civil or criminal laws by his actions.

Stay tuned.


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