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School Board Trustee, City Commissioner Indicted For Bribery After Lengthy Investigation In Fort Bend County

It started with a vote on a contract to do work for the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District.

Lamar CISD trustee Anna Gonzales, Richmond City Commissioner and former Lamar CISD trustee Jesse Torres and Jim Gonzales, CEO of a development firm, are facing multiple felony charges including bribery and organized criminal activity.

Lt. David Schultz said the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office conducted a six-month investigation.

“There were monies that were provided to Mr. Gonzales, who then attempted to relay that money to two candidates, Mr. Harrel and Mr. Steenbergen,” Schultz said. “And Ms. Gonzales provided some of the money for that allegedly.”  

Jim Gonzales, who is not related to Anna Gonzales, is the owner of IDC Inc., which has been doing contract work for the Lamar school district.

Schultz said the sheriff’s office started investigating after two trustees, Tyson Harrell and James Steenbergen, filed complaints. They claim Jim Gonzales offered them cash in envelopes during their election campaign – allegedly to influence them into supporting a contract with his company.

The lieutenant said Torres collected the money and passed it on to Jim Gonzales to give to the candidates.

Jim Gonzales’ lawyer, Steven Rosen, said his client was their campaign manager and did nothing wrong.

“Well, why didn’t those guys step forward two months earlier when there was an alleged turnover of money to them and say, you’re fired for bribery?” Rosen said. “Mr. Gonzales only turned over money to them that was collected and had a log of the people who donated it.”

He said there are people that didn’t want his client’s company to get the contract and that the indictments were “political.”

Rosen said Jim Gonzales will be forced to resign from his own company.

Harrell spoke out about the alleged bribe last summer. The school board consequently voted down the contract.

In a statement, the school district said it is aware of the allegations, but “because this is an ongoing legal matter, we’re unable to comment at this time. Our focus remains solely on educating the students of Lamar CISD.”

Neither Harrell nor Steenbergen responded to emails requesting comment in time for this story.

Schultz said Anna Gonzales and Jim Gonzales exercised their Fifth Amendment rights and declined to speak to investigators.

Should the defendants be found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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