A federal grand jury has indicted Timothy Vasquez, former president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, for allegedly taking at least $134,000 in bribes while serving as police chief of San Angelo.
Investigators for the FBI say that, while chief, Vasquez arranged for a communications company to win $11 million in public safety radio system contracts in exchange for payments made to him through a local band he leads called Funky Munky.
Vasquez, defeated in a 2016 election by current San Angelo Police Chief Frank Carter, made an initial appearance Friday in federal district court in San Angelo on a felony charge of receipt of a bribe and three felony counts of mail fraud.
If convicted on all charges Vasquez, 49, faces a possible maximum sentence of 70 years in federal prison.
“The defendant manipulated a government procurement process to personally profit for years,” Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Dallas, said in a statement. “This abuse of power affected a system that is supposed to be fair and unbiased.”
The FBI and the Texas Rangers launched their investigation after the last of the payments — a $50,000 check written to Funky Munky, with Vasquez’ name on the memo line — was made in June 2015. Vasquez was then serving a one-year term as Police Chiefs Association president.
In February 2007, the third year of Vasquez’ first term as police chief, San Angelo solicited bids for a first-responders radio system. Upon recommendation by Vasquez, the city awarded a $5.6 million to a vendor that federal investigators are not naming, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas.
According to investigators, Vasquez asked one of the three bidders to pay for a vacation in exchange for his recommendation, but the bidder refused.
In July 2007, a company called Juniper Valley, L.P. made out a check for $10,000 in the name of Funky Munky Band. Through 2015, according to investigators, Juniper Valley and another company called Trixie & Fini, both affiliates of the radio system vendor, delivered more than $84,000 in checks naming either the band or Vasquez.
When the city wanted to overhaul its first-responder communications system in 2015, Vasquez, in an email exchange with a city employee, recommended using an exemption to the competitive bidding process in order to hire the vendor that installed the original system, according to investigators.
The city agreed with Vasquez and approved a $5.7 million contract for the overhaul in June 2015. Six months later the unnamed vendor wrote the $50,000 check.
Rumors of a federal investigation hovered over the 2016 election. Carter, a lieutenant with the department, beat Vasquez, who had been with the department for 27 years, by a more than two-to-one margin. Still, accounts of the election mention nothing about the radio contracts or an investigation.
As recently as April of last year, San Angelo LIVE! featured Vasquez enjoying retirement and leading Funky Munky from behind a drum kit.
“I miss my job immensely,” Vasquez told the reporter. “Every day I wake up and miss being chief and a police officer. I think I really enjoyed what I was doing and serving this community.”
Attempts to reach Vasquez for comment through the Funky Munky Facebook page were not successful.
When The Texas Monitor contacted the San Angelo Police Department, a clerk said Carter had issued a statement and directed all further inquiries to the FBI.
“Although the San Angelo Police Department’s involvement was very limited,” Carter said, “we fully cooperated with the Texas Rangers and FBI during their respective ongoing investigations.”
Mark Lisheron can be reached at [email protected].