San Antonio ISD District 6 board member Olga Hernandez was arrested Thursday on federal charges of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. The arrest is part of an ongoing FBI investigation into fraudulent activities across South Texas.
Hernandez allegedly took trips to Las Vegas paid for by insurance brokers who were attempting to win a contract with the district.
Those brokers include Samuel Mullen, who pleaded guilty to participating in the alleged conspiracy when he was chief financial officer of Mullen Pension and Benefit Group. Mullen is no longer with the group.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Alan Brown, confirmed her arrest and said the allegations stem from statements made by Mullen as part of a plea arrangement with the federal prosecutors.
“He’s trying to get himself out of trouble,” Brown said.
The Rivard Report could not independently confirm the existence of a plea agreement.
Mullen has admitted to paying kickbacks to William Haff, a consultant who worked with SAISD and Edgewood ISD.
In 2016, as part of an ongoing FBI investigation into wire fraud in school districts across South Texas, Haff admitted accepting $64,585 from Mullen while working for Wortham Insurance and Risk Management, the firm hired by the districts to help select employee insurance. In exchange, Mullen received inside information on district requests for proposals.
Joshua J. Cerna also pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy when he worked with Mullen Pension and Benefit group.
The alleged conspiracy casts a shadow on the SAISD board, which has been celebrated for its cohesion and focus on reviving the inner city district under the leadership of Superintendent Pedro Martinez.
“We are very saddened and disturbed by this news,” Martinez said. “Since I have been here working with the board, they have demonstrated a commitment to act with the upmost integrity, to focus on our students and build trust with the community.
“We are waiting to find out more information, and will be following it closely.”
SAISD Board President Patti Radle issued a similar statement, saying that the board had no knowledge of the investigation beyond what was reported in the media.
“The news today regarding Olga Hernandez is alarming to our Board and certainly saddens our spirit,” Radle said in the statement.
An 11-year veteran of the board and former SAISD employee, Hernandez won re-election in 2015. Her term expires in 2019.
Hernandez’s initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad at the San Antonio Federal Courthouse was scheduled for Thursday. Brown said he expected that Hernandez will be released on a pre-trial bond, and that further proceedings will confirm her innocence.
“I think she’ll be victorious in the end,” Brown said.