AUSTIN, Texas - A federal grand jury in Austin has indicted a former chairwoman of a City of Austin advisory commission with conspiracy to misapply funds and falsify records, document falsification, and false statement offenses.
68-year-old Jill Ramirez was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; one count of falsification of records with intent to obstruct an investigation within the jurisdiction of the United States; and one count of false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States.
If convicted, Ramirez faces up to five years in prison on both the conspiracy and false statement charges and up to 20 years in prison on the falsification of records charge.
Court documents say that Ramirez worked for an Austin-area nonprofit and served as the chair of a city advisory commission. In September 2015, Ramirez had allegedly agreed to pay 10% of federal grant proceeds from the nonprofit to 71-year-old Frank Rodriguez of Dripping Springs, the nonprofit's former executive director and a senior policy advisor to a city official at the time.
Afterward, Ramirez and Rodriguez allegedly entered into a "consulting agreement" in December 2015 so, as Rodriguez wrote, to address "any issue that someone might have that the payments are for navigator grant work" and to thereby disguise the 10% payment. Ramirez then paid Rodriguez $21,375 from the nonprofit between December 2015 and December 2016, according to court documents.
Rodriguez continued to work on the nonprofit’s behalf while a city employee by providing confidential city information to the nonprofit, recommending that the nonprofit receive continued city funding, and undermining the nonprofit’s competitors for city funding, says court documents.
In 2017, the city Auditor’s Office commenced an investigation into Rodriguez’s conduct, and during an interview with investigators, Ramirez allegedly made false statements about the basis of the "consulting fees" paid to Rodriguez, says the US Attorney's Office.
Rodriguez pled guilty in January to one count of conspiracy to misapply federal funds and to falsify records in an investigation within the jurisdiction of an agency of the United States. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing in June.
Dripping Springs man pleads guilty to conspiring to misapply federal funds
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