In case you want to follow a story that isn’t related to the election.
The money was supposed to go to a charity that would pay for neighborhood events, but instead, prosecutors said, the longtime East End law enforcement official who created the nonprofit group more than 20 years ago gambled it away.
Harris County Precinct 6 constable Victor Trevino was indicted almost two years ago on several charges accusing him of financial misconduct, but details of the accusations finally were revealed Friday in a Harris County courtroom where the constable is on trial. The details portray a lawman well-known in his community and a regular fixture at outreach events – including National Night Out and a pre-Halloween Fall festival – to be the same man who became a criminal, taking money from an organization he said was designed to help the people he served. Trevino was first elected to office 26 years ago.
Among the accusations outlined by Assistant Harris County District Attorney Bill Moore was that Trevino diverted thousands of dollars from his charity for his own personal use, including cashing checks for cash to play slot machines with his wife at a Louisiana casino and to buy Lotto tickets.
During opening statements at Trevino’s trial, Moore said the constable directed his bookkeeper to forge the signature of someone from the charity who is authorized to sign them. Then either the constable cashed the checks or sent deputies to do it at local convenience stores, the prosecutor said.
“You are going to hear evidence that checks were cashed for large amounts of money,” Moore said. “And you are going to hear that within days, sometimes the next day, Constable Trevino and his wife would go to a casino in Louisiana and put large amounts of cash into slot machines.”
Defense lawyers for Trevino told jurors that the bookkeeper, not the constable, is the person who should be on trial.
“Carolyn Lopez was not trustworthy,” attorney Chip Lewis told jurors. “She was not a good bookkeeper.”
Lewis said that before 2008, Trevino’s record keeping was impeccable, because of longtime bookkeeper Mary Alice Williams. Williams became ill in 2008 and has since died. Lewis said that after Williams stopped doing the books, Lopez volunteered to take over.
That was when the financial improprieties began, Lewis said.
“I don’t believe in coincidences,” he told jurors. “The evidence will show that you should not believe in coincidences either.”
Lewis said Lopez lied to grand jurors who indicted Trevino in November 2012 and has since been given immunity for the 136 checks she admitted she forged.
See here and here for the background. There’s nothing more tawdry than an embezzlement trial, is there? Trevino was offered a fairly generous plea deal but rejected it while maintaining his innocence. Whether that is justifiable confidence or extreme hubris remains to be seen, but we should know soon. The trial is expected to wrap up this week, so the verdict will give us something to talk about if we don’t want to talk about the election results. Trevino is up for election next in 2016, in case you’re wondering.