McALLEN, Texas (CN) - A former toll collector at an international bridge claims in Federal Court that she was fired for filing a police report about her bosses embezzling tolls, which cost the city of Pharr "potentially millions in lost revenue."
Esmeralda Arevalo, a toll collector at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, sued the City of Pharr, its City Manager Fred Sandoval and Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge Director Jesse Medina.
Arevalo says she began working for Pharr in 2002 as a toll collector at the bridge.
"Because a large percentage of the travelers on the bridge are Mexican residents, the bridge allowed travelers to pay the toll in Mexican pesos as well as U.S. dollars," the complaint states. "Those who paid in pesos, however, had to pay the toll at a higher conversion rate than the market conversion rate at that particular time.
"Thus, in exchange for the convenience of paying in pesos, a driver of a car could pay $3.00 U.S. dollars or the equivalent in pesos calculated at a rate of 16 pesos to one dollar, totaling 48 pesos, rather than the market rate, which could be 13 pesos to one dollar, or 39 pesos."
Arevalo claims that "bridge supervisors required the toll collectors to falsify their daily reports of money collected by underreporting the amount of pesos they had actually received and, likewise, inflating the amount of dollars. Thus, an unsuspecting city employee or auditor would see that the combined amount of dollars and pesos corresponded with the number of vehicles that traveled through the toll plaza, because that observer would never know which drivers paid in dollars and which paid in pesos. Upon information and belief, this embezzlement of bridge and city funds began long ago, costing the city of Pharr potentially millions in lost revenue."
Arevalo claims her bosses treated her badly because she refused to play their games.
"For reasons unknown to plaintiff, she noticed that staff of the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge was fragmented into two groups: those who ingratiated themselves to the bridge administration and supervisors and, therefore, received special treatment and those who did not and were singled out for boorish treatment.
"Because plaintiff would not play along with the supervisors' infantile games and demands, she fell in the latter group and was persecuted as a result," according to the complaint.
Arevalo says she suffered symptoms of what was found to be a tumor on her pancreas in December 2009.
"She underwent central pancreatectomy on February 25, 2010 at the UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and was away from work on medical leave until September 14, 2010, when she resumed her regular duties," the complaint states.
"On June 5, 2011, she was working her regular shift when she had to leave her toll booth to open a gate. To do so, she had to move and lift the gate up to put it in place. When she did so, she strained and felt like she pulled something in her abdomen. Although she could perform her toll collecting duties for the rest of her shift, she reported the injury to her supervisor, Joel Flores, expecting him to take the steps necessary to open a workers' compensation claim. After several days of waiting to be sent to a doctor, she could not wait any longer, so she consulted with her family physician."