The federal trial for former San Antonio Independent School District trustee Olga Hernandez, who is facing federal fraud and bribery charges, kicked off Monday.
Hernandez is facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes. According to her indictment, Hernandez allegedly accepted bribes, including cash, jewelry and travel costs, over a seven-year period. She was arrested on February 15, and resigned shortly after to focus on the criminal charges against her. She’s denied the charges since her arrest.
Prosecutors in the case allege that Hernandez accepted a variety of gifts — including casino vacations, campaign contributions, jewelry and meals — from insurance broker Samuel Mullen (owner of Mullen Pension & Benefits Group) in exchange for her influence to help steer insurance contracts for the district, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Mullen, his former employee Joshua Cerna and consultant William Haff have all plead guilty for participating in the alleged conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg said the three men will testify they conspired with Hernandez, and that Hernandez influenced the board to vote for health, dental, disability and life insurance contracts for the district, according to the Express-News. Hernandez is on the record voting for three contracts relating to Mullen, for which his insurance group would have received commission.
According to prosecutors, Hernandez and her husband accepted $3,200 worth of meals on two trips to Las Vegas, $670 towards a birthday party for Hernandez, and all-expenses-paid casino trips to Shreveport and Reno from Mullen, as well as a $500 James Avery gift card and $500 in cash from Cerna, the E-N reported.
Hernandez's defense attorney said that while she was wrong not to report contributions on her campaign finance forms, there was no evidence she had promised Mullen anything.
If convicted, Hernandez could face up to 20 years in prison.