Former Jim Wells County DA Pleads for Abusing Forfeiture Fund

ALICE–The former Jim Wells County District Attorney accused of mishandling his forfeiture fund by giving himself and his co-workers more than $2 million in bonuses has taken a plea deal.

Today, Joe Frank Garza, 64, walked into a Alice courtroom and plead guilty to misapplication to fiduciary duty.

It was at the center point of his election a few years ago and led to him being ousted from office after serving as the top prosecutor for both Jim Wells and Brooks County.

His case came to light after an audit showed more than $2 million went to secretaries and other employees from 2002 to 2008.

His case garnered national attention when CNN came to Jim Wells County to interview him and to show how the forfeiture law was vague and improper in Texas.

Garza denied any wrongdoing from the start, claiming he could hand out those bonuses under the letter of the law.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office got involved and they were able to get a grand jury to indict him, saying it was illegal and he broke the law.

Garza plead guilty and could face up to six months in county jail when he gets sentenced May 6th. His defense attorney plans to fight that and ask for home detention.

Garza will be sentenced to 10 years in prison, which will be suspended for 10 years probation, as part of the plea agreement. He will have to pay a $10,000 fine and more than $2 million in restitution. He also will voluntarily give up his law license.

–South Texas Tribune, southtexastribune@gmail.com

Read more at http://www.southtexastribune.com

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