Former La Joya housing exec released on bond

SAN ANTONIO — Frances Salinas, the former interim executive director of the La Joya Housing Authority, was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond Friday morning.

Salinas, 52, was arrested on Dec. 23 in San Antonio on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The government and the defense had already reached an agreement on her release when Salinas was led into a federal courtroom in San Antonio before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry J. Bemporad. San Antonio is part of the Western District of Texas.

Salinas was set the standard conditions of release, which included reporting to a pre-trial services officer, must seek employment, must seek medical or psychiatric treatment if instructed by the officer, must refrain from drug or alcohol use, must submit to drug testing and was assigned a third-party custodian.

Because of the nature of the charges against her, she was also prohibited from opening any new lines of credit or bank accounts without permission from the pretrial services officer.

Salinas, dressed all in black, responded calmly and confidently to the judge, agreeing to abide by the conditions.

Soon thereafter, the U.S. Marshals began removing her restraints.

The daughter of former La Joya Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas and current La Joya Commissioner Mary Salinas, Frances Salinas’ arrest came after the FBI became aware of an alleged bribery scheme between her and Sylvia Garces Valdez — a former public relations employee of the city and former vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority board of commissioners.

The government alleges that Salinas helped Garces Valdez obtain a contract for a public relations position in the city. In exchange, Garces Valdez agreed to pay Salinas part of the money she was set to receive through the contract, according to the criminal complaint.

The two allegedly discussed the contract from May 2018 through August 2018, the government asserted in the complaint based on the FBI’s review of text messages and emails.

Salinas allegedly indicated that she had connections with an unnamed city official — Official A — who would ensure the contract’s approval, according to the complaint.

The contract was eventually approved and signed by Official A and Garces Valdez on June 12, 2018, and June 13, 2018, respectively. It called for an initial payment of $12,000 and an additional monthly payment of $2,000 for creating and maintaining a website to promote the city.

After Garces Valdez received the initial $12,000 payment, Salinas allegedly texted her with instructions on how to cash the check and divide the taxes on the income, according to the complaint.

Salinas also allegedly instructed Garces Valdez to deliver $7,000 in cash to her.

The attorney assigned to Salinas’ case, Molly Lizbeth Roth, was not present at the hearing. However, an attorney asked to cover for Roth, Alfredo R. Villarreal arrived shortly after the hearing.

Villarreal could not comment as he was unfamiliar with the details of the case and said Salinas would be assigned another defense counsel once the case was transferred to the Southern District of Texas in McAllen.