Former Donna public works director arrested

DINA ARÉVALO | STAFF WRITER

A former city of Donna employee has been arrested three years after an internal investigation led to the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.

Juan Francisco “Frankie” de los Rios, 53, formerly the Donna public works director, was taken into custody by Donna police on April 3 on one count of false name info/forgery vehicle registration, a third-degree felony, and one count of abuse of official capacity, a Class B misdemeanor.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the charges stem from a 2016 investigation which was sparked after a vehicle title was mailed to Donna City Hall bearing de los Rios’ name, as well as that of Suzanna Segovia, the then-public works department administrative secretary working under him.

The pair had signed their names and listed the address of city hall on a certificate of title application for a personal vehicle, the affidavit reads.

According to Donna Chief of Police Gilbert Guerrero, the scheme went beyond falsifying an official document; it extended to de los Rios using his position as a city employee to purchase personal vehicles at a preferential price.

“It was about some trucks that were purchased while Frankie de los Rios was employed as the public works director,” Guerrero said Tuesday.

“He bought them from the state. They were state vehicles,” he said, describing how de los Rios allegedly used an online bidding company to purchase three Ford F-150 pickup trucks.

“There’s other cities and other people. You get a pretty good price on them,” Guerrero said of the online bidding process.

Segovia, the administrative secretary, allegedly facilitated the bids at the behest of de los Rios during work hours and used city property and resources, such as computers, printers and telephones, the affidavit reads.

Though the affidavit describes Segovia as someone who “was used by the defendant (de los Rios)” — as a subordinate following the orders of her supervisor — she is also listed as his co-defendant.

The police chief said Segovia nonetheless had a duty to report potentially criminal actions.

“She should’ve gone to the city manager back then,” Guerrero said.

“Remember, ignorance of the law is no defense,” he said. The chief added there remains an active warrant for Segovia’s arrest, as well.

De los Rios was arrested after trying to re-enter the country from Mexico earlier this month. “While going through the U.S. Customs, they ran a criminal history,” Guerrero said, and found he had an active warrant for his arrest.

Federal agents detained him and notified Donna police, who took him into custody at the Progreso port of entry, Guerrero said.

Asked why it took three years to arrest de los Rios on a warrant that had been active since March 2016, the chief — who recently marked his one year anniversary with Donna PD — declined to speculate.

“I don’t know. I can’t answer,” he said.

De los Rios has since been released on a $1,000 surety bond — $500 for each count.