Hidalgo HUD Officials Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bribery and Embezzlement
MCALLEN, TX—Susana Munguia, 61, and Lubina Pedraza, 54, both of Hidalgo, have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and embezzlement and several counts of bribery, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Munguia and Pedraza were former officials with the City of Hidalgo Housing Authority who worked directly with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). Munguia was the executive director and Pedraza was a secretary.
The indictment charging them was returned under seal Feb. 3, 2015, and unsealed today upon their arrest. They made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos this morning, at which time they were temporarily ordered into custody pending a detention hearing set for Feb. 13, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.
From July 2011 to May 2014, Munguia and Pedraza allegedly used their positions as public officials to engage in a bribery scheme.
According to the indictment, the two women solicited and received bribes in exchange for allowing individuals to skip the Section 8 waitlist and immediately obtain housing assistance from the HCVP. Individuals paid, directly or through a third party, a monetary bribe to Munguia and Pedraza in order to bypass the waitlist system and to receive immediate approval to obtain vouchers for housing subsidies under the HCVP, according to the indictment.
Pedraza was responsible for assigning housing to the payee or beneficiary and issued checks to subsidize their rent payments. The indictment alleges that after Munguia and Pedraza received the bribe, the paying party (or the person for whom payment was made), would immediately receive their subsidized housing.
The indictment further alleges that from July 2013 to May 2014, Munguia and Pedraza also engaged in an embezzlement scheme, during which they took more than $5,000 in HUD funds through the issuance of false and fraudulent checks for Section 8 housing assistance. Pedraza was also responsible for the processing of rental subsidies to various landlords/owners. The indictment alleges that upon preparing the legitimate checks to pay the subsidies, Pedraza did cause multiple false and fraudulent check requests to be issued based on a falsified need for monthly Housing Authority payments to a particular owner/landlord. These fraudulent checks were made out to owners/landlords who either did not own or maintain a rental property and/or the property was not occupied by a Section 8 tenant, according to the allegations.
Munguia was responsible for the verification of the payment and the authorizing signature on the check. The indictment alleges that after Munguia issued and signed the fraudulent checks, Pedraza would then cash the fraudulent checks at Casa de Cambio or deposit the check at a BBVA Compass Bank and subsequently withdraw the money. Both women allegedly shared in the fraudulent proceeds.
If convicted, Munguia and Pedraza face up to 15 years in federal prison for the bribery charges and up to five years for the conspiracy charges.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by HUD-Office of Inspector General and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Rees is prosecuting the case.