Former Chairwoman of City of Austin Advisory Commission Indicted for Falsifying Records

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

AUSTIN – Yesterday a federal grand jury in Austin returned an indictment charging a former chairwoman of a City of Austin advisory commission with conspiracy to misapply funds and falsify records, document falsification, and false statement offenses.

According to court documents, Jill Ramirez, 68, worked for an Austin-area nonprofit and served as the chair of a City advisory commission.  In September 2015, Ramirez agreed to pay 10% of the value of federal grant proceeds from the nonprofit to Frank Rodriguez, the former executive director of the nonprofit and then a senior policy advisor to a city official.  Afterwards Ramirez and Rodriguez entered into a “consulting agreement” in December 2015 so, as Rodriguez wrote, to address “any issue that someone might have that the payments are for navigator grant work” and to thereby disguise the 10% payment. Ramirez then paid Rodriguez $21,375 from the nonprofit between December 2015 and December 2016.

Rodriguez continued to work on the nonprofit’s behalf while a City employee by providing confidential City information to the nonprofit, recommending that the nonprofit receive continued City funding and undermining the nonprofit’s competitors for City funding.

In 2017, the Auditor’s Office for the City of Austin commenced an investigation into Rodriguez’s conduct.   During an interview with investigators, Ramirez made false statements about the basis of the “consulting fees” paid to Rodriguez. 

Ramirez is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States; one count of falsification of records with intent to obstruct an investigation within the jurisdiction of the United States; and one count of false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States. She will have an initial court appearance at a date to be determined before a U.S. Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison on both the conspiracy and false statement charges. She faces up to 20 years in prison on the falsification of records charge. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Frank Rodriguez, 71, of Dripping Springs was charged separately by a criminal information.  On January 7, 2022, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to misapply federal funds and falsify records in an investigation within the jurisdiction of an agency of the United States.  He is scheduled for sentencing on June 17, 2022 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas and FBI Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich Jr. made the announcement.

The FBI is investigating the case, with assistance from the Office of Inspector General for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gabriel Cohen and Alan Buie are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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