Investigation Underway for Possible Misuse of Public Grants

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RAYMONDVILLE - An investigation into possible misuse of overtime grants by Willacy County sheriff deputies is underway.

Lyford resident Julie Trevino said the news took her by surprise. She said the sheriff’s office has always been helpful to her.

“They’ve been doing their job and they have always been good to us, and I hope nothing bad comes out of this investigation,” she said.

The Texas Rangers are currently looking into whether or not sheriff deputies misused state and federal overtime grants.

“We’re being very open about it, we’re not trying to hide anything,” Willacy County Sheriff Larry Spence said. “If we have a problem, I want to know about it and do something about it.”

Spence said he was first notified about the probe last week. He said the Texas Rangers are acting on a tip they received and are following protocol.

The grants include Operation Stonegarden and Border Star which focus on patrolling hot spots along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’ve been doing these grants for years and haven’t had any problem or anything,” the sheriff said. “The grants are very important to us in the work that we do. They pay the officers overtime to work the hot areas of the county where all traffic is going on.”

Spence said the department could be suspended from the program if the Texas Rangers find any misuse of the grants.

“It’s important for us, being a small county, and with our department shortened with the layoffs a couple years ago, it’s important to have that extra help to get the guys to come back out there,” he said.

The Willacy County sheriff said he’s staying optimistic about the investigation. He said it might have been a misunderstanding on what deputies can or cannot do with the grant.

The investigation is expected to take several weeks to complete.

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