Criminal JusticeFederalIssuesTaxes & SpendingAnother La Joya School District Official Convicted in Energy Savings Contracts Bribery Scandal

The conviction is connected to a bribery scheme that implicated several public officials in Hidalgo County.
February 7, 2022
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Federal prosecutors announced that an assistant superintendent in the La Joya Independent School District (ISD) has pleaded guilty to a charge of bribery.

In a press release on Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas Jennifer Lowery’s office indicated that 41-year-old Jose Morin will be required to forfeit the $28,000 in bribes he accepted in 2019 and beyond.

“(The bribes) pertained to energy savings contracts awarded to a company as well as job order contracts and facilitating the processing of pay applications related to those contracts,” the press release stated. “The LJISD school board subsequently approved the contracts Morin recommended.”

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane will sentence Morin, who is the assistant superintendent for student services, on April 19. The convict faces up to five years in prison and will remain free on bond until his sentencing.

La Joya ISD reportedly placed him on paid administrative leave after he entered the guilty plea.

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Morin is not the first La Joya ISD official to be ensnared in criminal prosecution related to the energy contracts.

A former trustee in the school district, 42-year-old Armin Garza, pleaded guilty in early January to his role in accepting bribes.

“As part of his plea, Garza admitted to using his influence over LJISD employees who were elected officials at other political subdivisions in Hidalgo County. The employees subsequently received promotions or pay raises,” the U.S. Department of Justice stated in a press release.

“They also voted to award or attempted to award the same company energy savings contracts at three other political subdivisions in Hidalgo County.”

Prosecutors indicated that Garza accepted $234,500 in bribes, which he will forfeit as part of the plea agreement.

Garza and Morin are among other public officials in Hidalgo County that have been convicted as part of the conspiracy, including a City of Penitas council member, Alex Guajardo, and chief of staff, Andres Morales.

Sentencing hearings in those cases are scheduled for March 18 in Garza’s case and April 6 for Guajardo and Morales.

Morales also pleaded guilty to omitting a felony conviction when completing the background check to purchase a firearm. He faces up to five years for that offense, per the DOJ.

All defendants face up to five years for the bribery violations and will remain free on bond until they are sentenced.

Blanca Cantú, the district’s public relations and communications coordinator, was not immediately available for comment when her office was contacted by The Texan.

A copy of the indictment against Garza can be found below.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."