Cameron County sheriff’s captain mowing instead of working

BROWNSVILLE — A Cameron County Sheriff’s captain entered pretrial diversion yesterday after he was charged with tampering with a governmental record with intent to defraud or harm.

Jose Carlos Garza, 49, was charged with the state jail felony and waived his indictment, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz said.

The District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Garza, who for four years held the contract to mow the Cameron County Airport, accusing him of falsifying his timesheets to say he was working for the county when in reality he was mowing at the airport and making round bales to sell.

“We conclude he did tamper with a government record by claiming hours when the evidence showed he was bailing hay,” Saenz said.

According to the DA, his understanding is that the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department suspended Garza in November after completing its investigation and handed the case over to Saenz’s office.

“At the end of the day, we conclude that, yes, he did tamper with a governmental record and, yes, he was claiming a salary or claiming hours working with the county when the evidence would show that he was out there bailing hay or doing personal work,” Saenz said.

And the work was lucrative.

Saenz said the person who held the bid before Garza gave a statement saying they sold 3,600 to 5,000 bales each year, which at the conservative price of $40, would net between $144,000 and $200,000 per year.

“It is very profitable,” Saenz said, explaining that depending on availability the cost of a bale could run as high as $75 apiece.

According to the complaint, the timesheet falsification happened in 2016.

“On or about the 14th day of November, 2016, and before the making and filing of this Complaint, in the County of Cameron and State of Texas, did with intent to defraud or harm another, namely Cameron County, knowingly make a false entry in a governmental record, namely a Cameron County Employee Overtime Time Sheet for the Work Period Between October 14, 2016 thru November 10, 2016, the false entry being that Defendant worked for a period of time that he did not actually work,” the complaint states.

The terms of Garza’s two-year pretrial diversion include that he forever surrender his peace officer’s license, Saenz said.

If Garza violates the pretrial diversion, he will face 180 days to two years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, Administrative First Assistant District Attorney Edward A. Sandoval said.

Phone calls to Sheriff Omar Lucio and Cameron County Chief Legal Counsel Juan A. Gonzalez weren’t immediately returned.

It’s not clear whether Garza is still employed with the county.