Dallas constables indicted in political corruption case

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by REBECCA LOPEZ and CRAIG CIVALE and CYNTHIA VEGA

Bio | Email | Follow: @rlopezwfaa

WFAA

Posted on November 30, 2010 at 7:56 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 1 at 10:11 PM

DALLAS — Two Dallas County constables have been indicted by a grand jury, and arrest warrants were issued Wednesday.

A special prosecutor has been looking into allegations of public corruption in the offices of former Constable Jaime Cortes and Constable Derick Evans.

News 8 has learned both been have been indicted for illegally raising campaign funds. If the the two Dallas County constables caught up in the political corruption case do not turn themselves in, arrest warrants will be issued for them both.

Deputy Constable Lupe Frias was one of the whistleblowers who brought allegations before the county. He complained that his boss, Cortes, forced employees to sell raffle tickets for his campaign.

"He thought he was above the law," Frias said. "He thought he could do what he chose to do, and when we stood up there was consequences."

Frias said he was demoted after bringing his concerns forward.

Cortes had nothing to say to News 8 when WFAA attempted to contact him about the indictments on Tuesday evening.

"I have no comment," he said. "You need to talk to my attorney."

In a statement issued by his attorney on Wednesday, Cortes said that he is the victim of a political vendetta by some members on Commissioners Court.

The former constable said he expects to be acquitted in court. "This matter has been pending for at least two years at the unwarranted and immoderate expense to Dallas County taxpayers," Cortes said in his statement.

On Monday, a grand jury heard allegations against Cortes and Evans. The pending charges were posted on a Dallas County Web site.

Cortes faces two counts of tampering with a government record for failing to report contributions on campaign discolsure forms. Evans faces four charges of illegally accepting contributions greater than $100 and one count of engaging in organized criminal activity.

Texas law does not allow raffles to be used for the purpose of raising funds politically, which is behind the claim behind the charges.

Also indicted were two peace officers serving as Evans' top deputies.

Evans could not be reached for comment.

District Attorney Craig Watkins appointed special prosecutor Ted Lyon, a Dallas attorney, to look into corruption in both the constables' offices, specifically looking at allegations the men held raffles to raise money for their political campaigns.

Evans and Cortes are accused of forcing some of their employees to contribute or face a penalty.

A separate investigation by the county found that both men abused their power and took advantage of public employees.

Prosecutors said they conducted more than 50 interviews and put in close to 200 man-hours in the course of this investigation.

D.A. Craig Watkins did not investigate this case, claiming he had a conflict of interest.

Prosecutors said the case is still ongoing and there's a chance that more charges may be filed against Evans and Cortes.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com and ccivale@wfaa.com and cvega@wfaa.com

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