Texas Insurance Agent Accused of Bribery in Rio Grande Valley

April 7, 2008

A Harlingen, Texas, insurance agent is accused in a federal indictment of providing cash, plane tickets and condo rentals to some Edcouch-Elsa school district officials in exchange for public contracts.

Arnulfo Olivarez was named in a three-count federal indictment returned in March 2008.

The indictment alleges the bribes were made to then-school board president Aaron Luiz Gonzalez and other district officials between 1999 and 2005 in exchange for votes on insurance contracts with the district.

Investigators said the kickbacks were valued at more than $26,000.

Olivarez, owner of Insurance Associates of the Valley, is one of three contractors indicted in connection with a similar scheme with the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school board.

Federal prosecutors allege Olivarez often used illegal means to get business for the insurance companies that employed him.

Gonzalez, who pleaded guilty to extortion charges in a similar case in June 2006, was not charged in the latest case under a plea deal with prosecutors, The Monitor in McAllen reported in its April 4 editions.

Olivarez faces charges of conspiracy, bribery, and mail fraud in the Edcouch-Elsa and PSJA cases but has pleaded not guilty in both. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

J.J. Ybarra, the current Edcouch-Elsa school board president, said the district now brokers its contracts directly with insurance companies.

“This activity is all from several years back,” he told the newspaper. “We had a lot of obstacles but we just keep moving on.”

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