MAY 26, 2009
A lengthy and ongoing federal investigation has exposed a deep-rooted culture of corruption in a tiny rural Texas county long infested bribery, fraud and crooked elected officials on the take.
With a population of only 7,000, Waller County, northwest of Houston, is small in size but huge in the category of public corruption. Since the feds started snooping around in the quaint county known for its scenic rolling prairies, four officials have pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks and two are in prison.
FBI surveillance recordings feature public officials openly discussing bribes and using coded language to figure ways to inflate county contract bids to cover the cost of their kickbacks. Earlier this year two elected officials—a mayor pro-tem and an alderman—pleaded guilty to soliciting bribes and each faces five years in prison.
A former mayor and a public works director, indicted last year, also pleaded guilty to bribery and are already serving federal prison sentences. The feds launched an investigation into the county about four years ago. A contractor working undercover for the FBI regularly offered cash packages to officials in exchange for public contracts.
The corruption was so blatant that the undercover contractor regularly met public officials outside convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and shopping malls to deliver bribes. The various federal indictments also refer to unnamed associates and unindicted co-conspirators as well as a judge.
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