Key Player In Starr County Politics, Weslaco Corruption Case, Dies


Former Rio Grande City school trustee and municipal judge Leonel Lopez, who was awaiting sentencing in a high-profile political corruption case, died on Saturday. Lopez died at his home in Rio Grande City. He was 54. The cause of his death has not been disclosed.

At the time of his death, Lopez was awaiting sentencing stemming from his guilty plea last year to his role in the widespread bribery scheme centering around the reconstruction of the Weslaco water treatment plant.

Federal prosecutors say Lopez orchestrated the scheme in which millions of dollars in bribes were paid to former members of the Weslaco City Commission and several other people to help steer contracts to politically-favored engineering companies and contractors.

According to Channel 5 News which first reported his death, Lopez pocketed about $2.5 million. Lopez’ death came 6 days after his wife Leticia died following a lengthy off-and-on battle with breast cancer.

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