FBI arrests almost every elected official in tiny Texan town for corruption

Five have been accused of 'used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes'

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The Independent US

FBI agents have arrested nearly every elected official in a small town in Texas over allegations of taking bribes and helping an illegal gambling operator in exchange for favours.

Just two elected officials in Crystal City, Texas were left unscathed in the probe which saw the indictment of the mayor, the city attorney, two current councilmen and one former councilman. 

Another councilman, Marco Rodriquez, was recently arrested on unrelated federal charges of smuggling immigrants across the border.

Richard Durbin, the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas said in a statement that the officials allegedly “used their official positions to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes from persons seeking to do business in Crystal City”. 

The City Attorney, William Jonas, has been accused of managing a bribery scheme where “contractors provided bribes totaling more than $12,000 (£8,200) in exchange for a City contract”.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said: “Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today. 

“It contributes to the cynicism we are seeing from members of the public who often feel as though all politicians are corrupt and the government does not serve the needs of those citizens who can’t pay for access to their elected officials.”

But Mr Durbin confirmed they remain elected officials and are still in charge of the town’s management. 

The local news channel KENS 5 reported that neither the US Attorney’s Office or the Texan Attorney General have the power to remove them from their positions and none of the five arrested have said they are stepping down. 

The channel reports the district attorney for Zavala County may be able to intervene and any citizen can petition the county judge to recall an elected official from office.

The sole remaining councilman without an arrest warrant, Joel Barajas, said that the town - which has a population of just over 7,500 people - has about $2 million (£1.4m) in unpaid bills and was facing bankruptcy.

If convicted the men accused of bribery face up to ten years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine (£172,000).