Former RGC school district employee pleads not guilty to bribery

A former employee of the Rio Grande City school district pleaded not guilty Wednesday to bribery following his indictment earlier this month.

A grand jury indicted Ricardo “Rick” Lopez for bribery stemming from his arrest in November 2017 for allegedly attempting to bribe a judge.

Investigators with the Starr County Special Crimes Unit surveilled Lopez meeting with Rio Grande City Commissioner Hernan Garza, the brother of District Judge Jose Luis Garza, in an attempt to give money to the judge through his brother so that the judge would lower the bond of a defendant in a high-profile murder case.

The defendant was Jose Luis Garcia Jr. who was charged with the murder of 17-year-old Chayse Olivarez. Garcia was acquitted in November 2019 but was sentenced to eight years in prison for tampering with physical evidence.

Following Lopez’s arrest, the school district placed him on administrative leave and then declined to renew his contract.

He has since sued the district and three school board members in federal court, claiming that they chose not to renew his contract because he did not politically support them.

That case is still pending.

The bribery case against Lopez is being prosecuted by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.