Gambling, Bribes and Top-Level Corruption in Crystal City

Crystal City, the so-called Spinach Capital, is now infamous for another type of green: alleged bribes.

By Rhonda FanningFebruary 5, 2016 2:19 pm| ,

A few months back, we heard from listeners about a city manager in a tiny South Texas town where the median income is $15,400 dollars a year, but the city manager was raking in a salary of $216,000. So we called the manager, James Jones. He told us, Crystal City, Texas was getting a bargain for his services, since he wears a lot of hats.

But Thursday Jonas and five others, including the mayor, mayor pro-tem and one member of city council, were handcuffed and hauled to jail in federal raids on bribery charges. Many local residents say they saw it coming, but FBI investigators, who’ve seen a lot, say the breadth of the corruption was startling.

The indictment accuses the six arrested in accepting and facilitating bribes to help a Keller, Texas businessman establish illegal 8-liner gaming rooms in the city.

These 8-liner slot machines are a big problem for law enforcement. According to the Texas Lottery Commission the state has 30,000 to 150,000 illegal slot machines that make an estimated $1.9 billion annually.

Special Agent Michelle Lee with the FBI field office in San Antonio says the investigation into Crystal City corruption charges was in place for more than two years.

“It’s something that we started in response to information that was provided to the FBI from the public,” Lee says. “Without question, public corruption is the number one criminal priority within the FBI. Here in South Texas … public corruption is something that we really need to focus our resources in effort to address.”

This was a good example of a case where the public came to the FBI and reported activities that they believed were criminal, Lee says.

Too often, Lee says people are jaded.

“(People) think that whenever they see bad decisions being made, and individuals accepting benefits and not making decisions in the interest of the public, I think they sometimes just think that that’s the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it.”