ALICE, Texas (CN) – A former district attorney of Jim Wells County is accused of taking more than $200,000 in seized money for himself. A grand jury accused Joe Frank Garza, 63, of misapplication of fiduciary property, a first-degree felony. Garza was district attorney for Jim Wells and Brooks Counties in south Texas from 2003 to 2008.
According to the indictment and court records, Garza took “$200,000 or more” in asset forfeitures, and spent it on himself and his employees.
An audit conducted after Garza left office found that more than $1.2 million had been transferred to two of Garza’s secretaries and his office’s head of crime victims service from 2004 to 2008, according to an Associated Press report, which cited the Alice News-Echo.
The money allegedly was spent on car allowances, stipends, reimbursements, advances, audits, travel and contract labor.
State law forbids district attorneys from using asset forfeitures to supplement their own salaries, unless county commissioners approve the expenditure. They must get commissioners’ approval before supplementing the salaries of county-paid employees with asset forfeitures.
State law does allow local authorities to keep and use forfeited assets, such as automobiles and equipment, or they can sell them and deposit the money. But the money can be used only for official purposes and cannot be converted for personal use.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office is prosecuting the case as district attorney pro tem, at the request of 79th District Attorney Armando Barrera.