Dina Arévalo

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Dina Arévalo is the editor of the Mid-Valley Town Crier and covers Weslaco, Donna, Mercedes Progreso and the Delta area for the Crier and for The Monitor. She can be reached at darevalo@mvtcnews.com or (956) 683-4441.

Ex-Progreso cop now facing federal charges

A former Progreso police officer accused of sexually assaulting two people while they were in custody is facing new charges in federal court. Matthew Lee Sepulveda, 24, was arrested by federal agents Friday in connection with the alleged assaults, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “The charges allege Sepulveda violated the civil rights of two individuals while acting under his authority as a uniformed police officer,” the statement reads. “Specifically, he allegedly performed oral sex on two men while they were in his custody.” Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Officials break ground on $60M Donna international bridge expansion

Local leaders gathered here Wednesday to celebrate the start of a $60 million expansion of the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge with an official groundbreaking ceremony. Construction on the project to add commercial traffic lanes to the bridge got underway Sept. 16, with the city kicking off a press tour days later. Wednesday’s groundbreaking capped off a month of celebrating, with officials from the city, county, and representatives from both Congressmen Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez’s office, along with Sen. John Cornyn’s office joining in the ceremony. Local law enforcement were also on hand, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

McAllen hotelier remains out on bond

McALLEN — McAllen hotelier Sunil Wadhwani remains out on bond after an arraignment here in federal court Tuesday. Wadhwani appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker to be arraigned on two felony counts related to a hotel development bribery scheme that has since been tied to an ongoing federal bribery case against several former public officials from Weslaco and Rio Grande City. As he did during an initial appearance last Wednesday, Wadhwani pleaded not guilty to the two charges against him: conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and wire fraud. After the judge asked if he understood the nature of the charges against him and their potential penalties, Wadhwani waived a reading of the indictment in open court. The judge accepted his plea before releasing him from court. Wadhwani remains free on a $50,000 unsecured bond. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Feds officially link Weslaco schemes

On the same day a Weslaco businessman appeared in federal court to face charges that he participated in a bribery scheme with a McAllen hotelier to build a Motel 6, prosecutors formally linked the case to an ongoing bribery case regarding the Weslaco water plant. Ricardo Quintanilla, 52, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan Alanis on Thursday afternoon after surrendering to federal agents Thursday morning. “We walked into the FBI today at 7:30,” Quintanilla’s attorney, Robert Steindel said during the arraignment hearing. Quintanilla surrendered after learning a warrant had been issued for his arrest on charges tying him to a bribery scheme with hotel owner and operator Sunil Wadhwani, 56, who himself had appeared in Alanis’ court for an initial appearance Wednesday. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

New details emerge in Weslaco bribery case; second warrant issued

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Weslaco businessman Ricardo Quintanilla on new federal charges as the Weslaco bribery scandal continues to grow. The warrant, and an indictment naming Quintanilla and McAllen hotelier Sunil Wadhwani, were unsealed today, but were filed in federal court shortly after Wadhwani was arraigned Wednesday in connection with allegations that he conspired to bribe Weslaco officials in order to obtain a favorable agreement in a hotel development project. The 14-page indictment lists two charges against Wadhwani and Quintanilla — conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Hotelier charged in Weslaco bribery scheme

A local hotelier who was arraigned in federal court Wednesday stands accused of conspiring with former Weslaco city officials to obtain favorable agreements in connection with a Mid-Valley hotel development. McAllen resident Sunil Wadhwani, 56, was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan Alanis Wednesday afternoon to be arraigned on one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. “In the course of trying to get a loan … you bribed various individuals,” Alanis said as he recited a summary of the allegations against the Wadhwani. The allegations come after a months-long investigation by the FBI — an investigation Alanis said Wadhwani was aware of for the past several months. Read the full story at themonitor.com.

Mayoral candidates square off in Weslaco

WESLACO — Residents here got to see first-hand where two mayoral candidates stand on issues of economic prosperity, quality of life and government accountability and accessibility. Mayor David Suarez, who is seeking re-election, and challenger Alfredo “Duff” Castañeda sat for a scripted candidate forum hosted by the Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night. The forum, which was held at the Weslaco Business, Visitor and Event Center, was sparsely attended. Each candidate was allowed two minutes to provide opening statements before taking turns answering a list of prepared questions from moderate John Greider, of The Monitor’s parent company, AIM Media Texas. Read more at the monitor.com.

Cuellar sentencing delayed; ex-official pleads guilty

The sentencing of former District 2 Weslaco City Commissioner John F. Cuellar in connection with the Weslaco water plant bribery scandal has been delayed until after the new year, according to recently released federal court records. U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez on Monday granted Cuellar’s motion to delay the sentencing until Jan. 15, 2020, court records show. His sentencing hearing had originally been set for Oct. 22. Cuellar, one of four defendants who originally pleaded not guilty as part of a 74-count superseding indictment in April, changed his plea to guilty in August. Read more on the monitor.com.

Donna-Rio Bravo bridge begins $60M expansion

DONNA — City leaders here are celebrating the start of a long-awaited $60 million expansion of the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge. The expansion will turn the nearly 10-year-old port of entry — which is currently passenger vehicle only — into a state-of-the-art commercial hub that officials hope will serve as a catalyst for economic growth in the Mid-Valley. “It’s a great day for Donna. It’s a great day for the bridge,” Donna City Manager Carlos Yerena said at the top of a bridge board meeting last month, where city leaders learned that the bridge had been given the green light by the federal government to proceed. Read more at the monitor.com.

Mercedes city manager keeps job as political tensions simmer

Sergio Zavala will remain the city manager of Mercedes after an attempt to remove him from the city’s top administrative position failed during a meeting Tuesday evening. The Mercedes City Commission discussed the city manager’s fate behind closed doors during a long, and at times tense, meeting here. The discussion came after Commissioners Jose Gomez and Leonel Benavidez co-sponsored the item on Tuesday’s agenda. Before retiring to executive session, Gomez asked if the commission could use a “recording machine” to record the closed-doors discussion. Mayor Henry Hinojosa denied the request, stating that such a request required approval by the commission and was not on the agenda for discussion. Read the full story at themonitor.com.