Family of Progreso politicians arrested on federal charges

Progreso Elementary

It is a city along the border with just over 5,500 people, but the small community is the talk of the entire valley after the FBI revealed a public corruption investigation involving the city and school district. City leaders and school district leaders are up in arms after the mayor, his brother the school board president and their father were arrested and accused of taking kickbacks for construction bids. According to an indictment unsealed Wednesday, maintenance and transportation director Jose Guadalupe Vela allegedly served as the puppet master, using his sons Omar and Michael Vela's positions of public authority to control the local government. They are all accused of profiting several thousand dollars from the deals. One of the largest including a contract bid given to a construction company out of the Rio Hondo and Combes area for a new elementary school.. Progreso Superintendent Fernando Castillo said he is shockedabout the allegations as the rest of the tight knit community. When we spoke to Castillo he said he had not viewed the indictment and did not know the specific construction bids that were under investigation. The indictment claims the Vela's distributed bribe money to board trustees who voted as Jose Vela directed. They would retaliate against the trustees and superintendent when they did not vote as he ordered, according to the indictment. Castillo said the school district is not affected as of now, and it is his priority to keep the first week of classes moving forward. As for the Vela's, they are under arrest and are expected to appear in court Thursday morning. If convicted they will face several years behind bars for bribery, conspiracy and theft. The school district has not removed Michael Vela as school board president tonight, but they are considering the action.