Terra Rivers | Managing Editor
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra is under investigation by state officials following allegations including the promotion of questionable coronavirus antibody tests.
The Texas Tribune and ProPublica reported Friday Becerra attempted to persuade local mayors to buy COVID-19 antibody tests by the thousands.
Recordings from phone conferences with local health and elected officials reveal several attempts by Becerra to convince them to support the purchase of testing kits through MRG Health and MDBox.
According to a letter from the Texas Attorney General’s office dated April 10 addressed to the Texas Rangers, the AG is investigating allegations of Becerra disclosing county budget information to MRG Health.
The letter states Becerra may have committed offenses such as abuse of official capacity, official oppression, misuse of official information, theft, misapplication of fiduciary property, tampering with a government record, and election code laws.
The San Marcos Daily Record broke the news Friday by publishing the letter from the AG’s office Friday.
An arrest that occurred in April of a man from New York revealed Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau had already recused himself from cases related to Judge Becerra and Alex Villalobos.
According to Friday’s report, Kyle Hayungs has sought telemedicine contracts across the state for his company, MRG medical.
Emails obtained by public records requests show Hays County Chief of Staff, Alex Villalobos, and Becerra helped the entrepreneur with a proposal for the county on its coronavirus response and stated Villalobos edited company marketing material.
Becerra assigned Hayungs with a federal grant application and helped broker a pitch meeting with the former CEO of Central Texas Medical Center, Anthony Stahl.
The AG’s letter states its criminal prosecution division will prosecute “viable cases that are developed as to Judge Becerra or any other individuals from the investigation of the allegations involving Becerra.”
Commissioner Walt Smith expressed concerns regarding MDBox and its testing kits since Becerra first proposed the county purchase 2,000 antibody tests early into the pandemic.
Among the allegations the AG’s office is investigating involves Becerra having emergency lights placed on his personal, privately-owned vehicle by county employees on county time and at county expense, which is abuse of official capacity.
The AG’s letter also states it will investigate Becerra’s unilateral decision to remove an item from the agenda sponsored by another commissioner after it had been published as an official record.
Becerra stated the reason he removed the agenda item was due to a lack of background materials, which were unavailable prior to the meeting.
Corridor News has been unable to get a response or comment from Becerra. However, he told the Statesman that several of the allegations including ones related to official oppression and abuse of official capacity were fabricated.
While no tests were officially purchased by Hays County from MRG Medical, Corridor News obtained an invoice for $30,000 for the purchase of COVID-19 testing kits.
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