An architect tied to kickback scandals in Progreso and Weslaco pleaded guilty to conspiracy Wednesday as part of a plea agreement in U.S. District Court in Houston.
Jesus Bustos, 58, of McAllen architecture firm IDEA Group, admitted to bribing school board members in both districts in exchange for contracts worth millions.
The plea for the first time names Joe Marines as the Weslaco school board member who took bribes from Bustos. The architect acknowledged using his employee Rumaldo Bustamante to pay Marines for the contract for the design of Mario Ybarra Elementary.
Bustos then paid two bribes himself to Marines near the end of construction to expedite payment from the district to his firm.
Marines left the board in 2010. He was indicted the following year and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes during the bidding process of a different elementary school, Roosevelt Elementary, in 2006.
In Progreso, Bustos acknowledged using Bustamante to pay bribes from 2004 to 2013 to members of the Vela family for contracts on construction projects including West Elementary School, the Fine Arts Center, North Elementary School and the Science and Technology building.
Jose “Lupe” Vela and his sons, former Mayor Omar Vela and former school board President Michael “Mikey” Vela have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to controlling city and school district contracts and giving them out in exchange for kickbacks.
“Jose Vela shared the bribe money with PISD School Board members who were willing to vote for contractors that Jose Vela chose for their willingness to pay bribes,” Bustos’ plea agreement said.
Bustos was ordered Wednesday to forfeit $200,000 that he agreed he had gotten through the scheme.
The conspiracy charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Bustos is set to be sentenced July 25.