DECEMBER 02, 2009
A south Texas lawmaker indicted earlier this year for paying her personal illegal immigrant domestic workers with public funds has tried to bribe witnesses who are expected to testify against her.
Hidalgo County Commissioner Sylvia Handy is accused of defrauding the county out of tens of thousands of dollars to pay the salaries of the undocumented Mexicans who cleaned her house and cared for her children. For at least five years the veteran commissioner paid the illegal aliens with county funds even though they never did any public work, according to a 70-page federal indictment made public a few months ago.
Handy put the illegal Mexican workers on her precinct payroll under assumed names and assigned them bogus maintenance jobs, according to authorities. Two women have so far admitted to a federal judge that they collected more than $100,000 by participating in Handy’s corrupt scheme and prosecutors estimate that tens of thousands more were illegally charged to the county throughout the years.
One of the women pleaded guilty to conspiracy, admitting that she got county paychecks while working as Handy’s personal housekeeper and babysitter for more than five years. Another woman, who is a McAllen school employee, said she let the illegal alien housekeeper use her Social Security number to avoid drawing attention to the fraud.
Prosecutors say Handy ordered a county human resources employee to create a fraudulent job application for one woman using an assumed identity, including someone else’s Social Security number. The woman, who was subsequently promoted by the crooked commissioner, not only collected county paychecks, she withdrew thousands of dollars from her assumed identity’s retirement account.
Handy has been free on $100,000 bond since being charged, but the “improper contact with witnesses” violates the terms of her bail and a judge put her on 24-hour home confinement last week. The judge subsequently loosened the restriction to allow the disgraced politician to attend county commission meetings and take her son to school.
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