Galvan’s trial has been pushed back to late October
Nearly three years ago former County Commissioner Roger Galvan and Port Commissioner Aron Luna were arrested on an enhanced theft charge greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than $200,000.
The long-awaited and highly anticipated trial dates for the two men have been pushed back over a handful of times. Luna will stand trial on July 29, Galvan on October 28, so the wait is over.
Calhoun County District Attorney Dan Heard requested the assistance of the Texas Rangers
when an investigation was opened early in June 2015.
The request did not meet the Texas Rangers’ criteria for investigation. The Rangers requested that the District Attorney’s office narrow the scope before opening an investigation.
In January 2015, The Wave began its investigation.
According to records obtained from the Calhoun County Treasurer’s Office through an open records request, 26 checks were issued to RBI Contractors beginning in Feb. 2011, and Aron Luna endorsed the majority of those checks. RBI Contractors was paid $142,495 during that period.
Amounts paid for riprap ranged from $3,640 to $7,280 each for 24 of those checks. One check was $2,200 for topsoil, and another was $1,200 for water system repairs.
Luna said he acted as a broker through RBI Contractors. RBI Contractors was formed as a partnership the late 1980s or the early 1990s between Israel “Rocky” Gonzales, his son Ben Gonzales and him, according to Luna. The company disbanded in 1990 after an accident left one of its employees dead, Luna said.
Ben Gonzales said he and his father, Rocky, did some work for RBI for about a year in the late 1980s but did not have any ownership in the company.
“It was Aron’s company from day one,” Ben Gonzales said.
Luna continued to do business as RBI Contractors. However, neither the Calhoun County Clerk’s office nor the Texas Secretary of State showed a name filing recorded for RBI Contractors. Most of the payments made by the county to RBI Contractors were endorsed and cashed by Aron Luna. The signature on the copies was consistent with other official documents signed by Luna.
Luna said he facilitated numerous types of jobs, including hauling sand and riprap.
Melissa Lester with Lester Contracting, Inc., Felipe Gonzales with Gonzales Contracting and Rudy Rivera with Rivera Trucking had all hauled riprap, which was delivered near the Calhoun County Fairgrounds in Port Lavaca or the beach area, both in Precinct 1. However, all said that they had never hauled for Luna. None had charged the county or received payment from the county for delivering riprap, they said, which county records confirmed.
“I would say we delivered quite a bit of concrete through the years to the location that’s probably in question, and that’s behind the fairgrounds,” Gonzales said. “It’s always been more of a courtesy and really a place for us to be able to get rid of concrete rubble. You can’t just get rid of it anywhere. That’s been a location for us, but we have never, ever received one cent or charged for a load.”
In the course of three interviews with Luna, he said that those who continued to haul material for him were Rivera, along with Israel “Rocky” Gonzales of Rocky’s Excavating.
“Rocky delivers, and then I’ll get it from Rudy Rivera Trucking or whoever has the stuff. He is the only one that handles riprap,” Luna said.
Rivera, however, said he had not driven a vehicle since early 2013 when he had a medical condition requiring surgery. Rivera returned to work in October 2014 but not as a driver, he said.
In addition to Rivera being unable to drive, Rocky Gonzales died March 13, 2014, at age 76. He was incapacitated for six-to-eight months before his death, according to Ben Gonzales.
Luna said the last transaction he had with Rocky Gonzales was in December 2014. He also stated that he paid Rocky Gonzales in cash, and no trip tickets or invoices were issued.
When asked, “Does Roger get any kickback from using you?” Luna responded, “Nah.”
When questioned, Galvan initially referred questions to the district attorney’s office.
“The best thing you can do is visit with them (the DA’s office) first because they’re the ones that check everything out, whatever it is that you’re talking about. Is it that riprap?” Galvan said.
“We have a bad tendency of always making decisions and orders, you know, for certain things,” Galvan said. “I guess the biggest problem we’ve had in the past, really, is never documenting things as long as the things get done, and this is one of the biggest problems that I have and everybody’s had, so all that’s being rectified, but it’s just one of those situations that, I don’t know, it just, uh, the work got done.”
Galvan confirmed that he purchased riprap through Luna.
“I set up Aron Luna because he owned RBI Contractors,” Galvan said. “At the time I didn’t know he owned it. I talked to Rocky Gonzales in the past. I told him, ‘Rocky, you’ve got all the connections in the world. Send me the truck drivers, and I’ll pay them this much. If you guys got a little contract and y’all want to charge them a percentage, that’s up to you. I don’t care. I just want one contract. I don’t want to have 200.’ That’s what I was trying to avoid, and that’s what we did. He got all the paperwork, and we handled it. I never saw anything wrong with what we did.”
“They came to Aron. Aron would pay them, and I would just give Aron one check because he owned that RBI Contractors,” Galvan said.
Galvan contended, later in the conversation, that everything was documented.
“Everything was documented. It was documented”, he said. “All that you have to report to the IRS. It was nothing illegal.”
When asked where the documentation was, Galvan referred to Luna.
The Wave was unable to substantiate Luna’s claims that Rocky delivered riprap to the county in the months and years before his death. In the six months before Rocky Gonzales’s death, during the time that he was incapacitated, there were four invoices submitted and paid for 176 loads of riprap.
Luna’s claims that Rocky delivered 135 loads after his death were also unsubstantiated, though three more invoices had been submitted by Luna and approved by Galvan since that time.
The only riprap that The Wave had found that was delivered to the county was through other sources, which gave the riprap at no charge.
Galvan was the only commissioner that had paid for riprap. Commissioner Vern Lyssy and former commissioners Kenneth Finster, and Neil Fritsch, all of whom had shoreline in their precincts stated that they had not paid for riprap.
Invoices from RBI stopped after the investigation was opened, and there were no invoices from RBI to the county in 2015. The last invoice submitted to the county by RBI was for $1,200 dated Dec. 31, 2014, and paid Jan. 22, 2015. That invoice was for water line repairs. The most recent invoice for riprap was dated Dec. 11, 2014, for $6,885. It was paid Dec. 22, 2014.
While Heard said the investigation was “not just sitting there,” The Wave was unable to locate any source, except for Luna and Galvan, that had been questioned by the District Attorney’s office or law enforcement officials regarding the allegations.
New information emerged
More details surfaced surrounding an investigation into Calhoun County Precinct 1 commissioner Roger Galvan.
The investigation focused on payments made by the county to RBI Contractors for a concrete rubble-type material called riprap. It is often used to help prevent beach erosion.
Various contractors throughout the years had delivered riprap to county locations at no charge. The county, however, had paid $217,595 for riprap, all in Precinct 1, and all approved by Galvan.
Records previously obtained by The Port Lavaca Wave outlined payments made to RBI Contractors from 2011 to Dec. 2014. Those records stated that 26 checks totaling $142,495 were issued to RBI Contractors from Feb. 2011 to Dec 2014. The majority of those checks were endorsed by Aron Luna, who also represented District 5 on the Calhoun Port Authority board.
Additional records that detailed payments from the county to RBI Contractors dated back to 2008. Payment documents were obtained from the Calhoun County Treasurer’s Office through separate open records requests.
According to those documents, RBI Contractors received 14 payments from the county between Feb. 2008 and Dec. 2010 totaling $75,100.
Twelve of the transactions were for riprap, with amounts ranging from $700 to $7,500. Of the 14 payments, one for $4,200 was for a Precinct 1 capital project and another payment for “64 loads.” That payment was for $6,400.
More Galvan allegations surfaced, Texas Rangers opened an investigation
More allegations centering around misuse of taxpayer dollars had surfaced against Calhoun County Precinct 1 commissioner Roger Galvan.
Galvan, who had been in office since January 2001, was under investigation by the Texas Rangers.
Calhoun County District Attorney Dan Heard, who had the investigation in his office since December 2014, had provided the necessary paperwork to the Rangers for them to launch an investigation.
Heard had said in written correspondence with the Rangers the investigation would focus on payments made by the county to RBI Contractors for riprap, a concrete rubble-type material. Riprap is often used to help prevent beach erosion.
Several sources who had been, or were currently employed, at Precinct 1 said that in addition to riprap, they had seen the first-hand misappropriation of county resources and property under Galvan’s watch.
These allegations included giving away county fuel to Galvan, his staff and family members, as well as repairing personal vehicles at taxpayer expense.
Multiple sources had stated either they had their car filled with gas, washed and detailed or had witnessed Galvan or his family members receiving the same. All asked that their identities be kept confidential, citing fear of incriminating themselves and concerns for the safety of their families.
District attorney recused from
A Calhoun County commissioner under investigation by the Texas Rangers claimed he had not been contacted by authorities.
Following a regular commissioners court meeting, Precinct 1 Calhoun County Commissioner Roger Galvan was asked about the reports of Texas Rangers investigating the possible theft of county money involving the alleged trucking and purchase of concrete rubble in his district.
Galvan said no Ranger or other investigator had talked with him. He said he had not made any money in connection with the events being questioned.
“I don’t know what else to say,” he said.
An investigation into Galvan had begun more than a year before. The case, which initially focused on payments made by the county for riprap, was initially handled by the Calhoun County Criminal District Attorney Dan Heard’s office and was later turned over to the Rangers. A search warrant executed at Guarantee Shoes had alleged theft of money from the county by Galvan and Aron Luna, owner, and operator of Guarantee Shoes.
The warrant was executed by the Texas Rangers, who were working in conjunction with the Texas Attorney General’s Office on the case.
Galvan, Luna arrested
Calhoun County Commissioner Pct. 1 Roger Galvan was booked into the county jail Sept. 14, 2016, and was charged with theft of property greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than $200,000 enhanced. The charge is a first-degree felony in the state of Texas and is punishable by 5 to 99 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The arresting agency was the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, jail records stated.
Aron Luna was also arrested on charges of theft of property greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than $200,000.
Nearly four years later, one trial begins
Luna, who has been in and out of jail on drug charges since being arrested for theft, will appear in court for trial July 29. Galvan is expected to begin trial Oct. 28.