Texas Rangers investigate Willacy sheriff department’s OT

RAYMONDVILLE — The use of grant money is under the microscope.

The Texas Rangers are investigating possible overtime theft at the Willacy County Sheriff’s Department.

The investigation appears to focus on deputies who work with grants that pay for overtime, Sheriff Larry Spence said yesterday.

“They’re talking to all the officers who work grants,” Spence said. “They want to talk to the patrol officers.”

Spence said the Texas Rangers are investigating possible theft of overtime paid through the Stone Garden and Border Star grants, which pay officers overtime to work high-crime areas.

“It’s kind of like an audit,” Spence said of the investigation. “They’re looking into what (officers) were doing at the time when they said they were working. If it’s going to be anything, it’s going to be one or two (officers), if that.”

The Texas Rangers requested grant records filed between August and November 2016.

Spence said the Stone Garden and Border Star grants have helped fund officers’ pay amid budget cuts stemming from the close of the Willacy County Correctional Center in February 2015.

“Those grants keep us functioning,” Spence said. “I just hope it doesn’t jeopardize our chances of getting more grant money. It would be a real set back. I don’t want to see grants jeopardized or the department getting a black mark.”

Spence said the Texas Rangers told him about the investigation last Thursday.

“This kind of blindsided us,” Spence said. “It gives me great concern. It’s been the cause of lots of sleepless nights.”

Spence said he questions why the allegations were not brought to his attention before the Texas Rangers launched their investigation.

“If it’s somebody close to the department, why didn’t they come and say there’s something wrong in the department?” Spence asked. “I would hope if someone had a problem they’d come forward.”

The Texas Rangers said the investigation could take one to three months to complete, Spence said.