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Texas DA Pleads Guilty to Felonies: Will Serve Jail Time, Pay Fine – and Return $2.16 Million He Took

The big news this month down in Alice, Texas (which lies between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, if you’re wondering) is not that former Brooks County and Jim Wells County district attorney Joe Frank Garza has made a deal with prosecutors rather than face trial on a number of felony charges. No, the big news is that Mr. Garza will be returning $2,160,000.00 he took out of the asset forfeiture funds.

That’s right: Joe Frank Garza, 64, is giving the money back. Over two million smackeroos.

You’ll recall from earlier posts that Mr. Garza got himself indicted for taking money that was piling up in the asset forfeiture funds held in the two counties for which he served as head prosecutor. Back then, however, Joe Frank Garza was confident that he had done nothing wrong — that Texas law allowed him, as district attorney, to do as he saw fit with the monies that found their way into the county forfeiture accounts.

Specifically, from our earlier posting, Mr. Garza had taken over $4 million out of this account, spent primarily in bonuses to three secretaries:

The media is reporting these tallies (the audit/investigation is ongoing, this information comes from data provided by Garza to the Attorney General’s office) from 2000 – 2007 (excluding 2002) where Garza spent $4.2 million:

1.$2.1 million was spent on “salary supplements”, and while Garza had a staff of 15 who did get bonus pay, Barrera (and the county commissioner heading up the investigation) are reporting that most of this total went to just three people, three secretaries who worked for Garza.
2.$267,449 on travel.
3.$581,000 in operating expenses.
4.$19,987 on equipment.
5.$154,213 on supplies.

On May 6, 2011, he appear at a sentencing hearing now that he’s made his plea deal with the Texas Attorney General. There, Joe Garza will be asked to fork over his license to practice law in the State of Texas, along with paying a $10,000 monetary fine. Then, per the deal, he will spend 6 months as a guest of the Jim Wells County Jail and when he is released – say in November, in time to be home for the holidays – he will be on probation until 2021.

Oh, and at that $2.16 million repayment will be taken care of during that May sentencing hearing, too.

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