Toyah mayor resigns Friday
Dec 22, 2012 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Embattled Toyah Mayor Bartolo Sanchez resigned Friday amid accusations he fleeced his city of about $300,000 through fraudulent reimbursement claims and personal expenditures, according to Sanchez' lawyer, John Young, of Sweetwater.
Toyah asked the City Council to accept his resignation as immediate, Valdez wrote in a statement.
The FBI arrested Sanchez, 41, on Nov. 30. A federal grand jury indictment unsealed the same day charges Sanchez with one count of bank fraud, one count of wire fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft, according to the following announcement by FBI Special Agent in Charge Mark Morgan and United States Attorney Robert Pitman.
Sanchez denies the allegations and vows to refute the charges, Young said, according to the statement.
"It is unfortunate that Bart has been accused of such serious conduct arising out of his service as mayor of this fine community," Young said, according to the statement. "Bart has served the citizens of Toyah honorably and proudly for several years and we will defend against the Government's allegations vigorously and thoroughly. "
Sanchez became mayor of the Toyah on May 22, 2006. It's a small town, about 1.6 square miles with just 100 residents.
The mayor received no pay for his service, but he did have signatory authority over all city accounts at West Texas National Bank in Pecos, according to the indictment.
The FBI says Sanchez signed a $228,132 settlement agreement on May 14, 2009 with the energy company Chesapeake Operating -- money that meant to cover repairs on Toyah streets damaged by Chesapeake vehicles. But Sanchez didn't tell the City Council, the indictment states.
Instead the FBI says Sanchez deposited that money in a bank account he created.
And, according to the indictment, Sanchez wrote checks to himself from this account, just like he did from various other city bank accounts.
Most of these checks were written to reimburse him for fraudulent mileage claims as well as various other personal expenses which "had little or nothing to do with official City business," the release from the bureau states.
The city checks required a second signature. To keep City Council members from catching on to his scheme, the indictment states Sanchez would simply forge the signature of "a City of Toyah employee, hereinafter identified as B.S."
The mayor could face 30-year imprisonment on the bank fraud charge, 20 years on the wire fraud charges and mandatory two-year terms for each aggravated identity theft charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Austin Berry is prosecuting. The case is currently set for trial before the Honorable Robert Junell, United States District Judge, for Feb. 4, 2013.
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