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Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, joined members of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley during the Tuesday, October 6, regular meeting of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court to continue rallying support for passage of Proposition 8.  Proposition 8, which is one of 11 constitutional amendments set for a statewide vote on Tuesday, November 3, would be “a direct mandate to the state government that it will work with the feds in providing whatever it takes to bring a VA Hospital down here,” said Flores, featured here, middle row, second from right. Two days later, in a related development, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wrote President Obama, reminding the president of Obama’s promise to help bring a VA Hospital to deep South Texas.”I was very pleased that, as a member of the Senate in 2008, you cosponsored the South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act, which I had introduced to bring desperately needed inpatient medical facilities to the Rio Grande Valley,” Cornyn noted to Obama. “The Federal Government still fails to fully recognize the efforts and sacrifices of these brave Americans in defense of our country, despite repeated requests to the VA for help and recent legislative efforts on this issue.”  In addition to Flores, elected county leaders also showcased in this group portrait with area veterans include, back row, from left: Precinct 4 Commissioner Óscar L. Garza, Jr.; Precinct 3 Commissioner Joe M. Flores; County Judge Salinas; and Precinct 3 Héctor “Tito” Palacios. See story later in this posting.


Tickets remain on sale for $90 per person through Friday, October 16, for the Museum of South Texas History’s ¡Fandango! – Saluting the Flags of Texas, which will be held on Saturday, October 24. ¡Fandango! is MOSTHistory’s annual FUNdraising event, filled with fast-paced auction fun, good food, and great company. Organizing this year’s event are Amy Johnson of McAllen and Shelley Richards of Edinburg. Among the committee members for ¡Fandango! are, from left: Josie Cappadona of Linn; Kathe Tavarez of McAllen; Amy Johnson of McAllen; Carola Chapa of San Manuel; and Patty Garza of Edinburg. More information is available by calling Lynne Beeching at 956/383-6911. See story later in this posting.


Leaders with the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce have announced that the local organization will be hosting a Winter Texan Welcome and Small Business Expo on Thursday, November 5.  The local chamber recognizes that Winter Texans are vital to the city’s economy. Live music by “It’s Miller Time”, food, door prizes and drinks will be available to Winter Texans for only $3 per tickets, which may be purchased in advance through local RV parks and at the chamber headquarters. The Welcome will take place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Edinburg Activity Center, located on 123 West Palm Drive. Exhibitors are encouraged to sign up to hand out literature, coupons, discounts, and talk to Winter Texans one-on-one. For a $25 fee for chamber members, and $50 for future chamber members, local business owners would be provided a presence at the event, including an eight-foot table and two chairs, to promote their skills and services. More information on the event or reserving exhibition space is available by contacting the chamber at 956/383-4974 or at Chamber staff members promoting the Winter Texan Welcome and Small Business Expo are, standing, from left: Evana Vleck, marketing director; Letty González, president; and Crystal Cavazos, tourism assistant. Seated are Imelda Rodríguez, tourism director, and Martín Rivas, membership director.


Former Rep. Cullen R. Looney, D-Edinburg, a local attorney, and Estella Lane Treviño, a former justice of the peace and longtime executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority, have been named Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. The announcement came on Saturday, October 3, during the local organization’s Annual Installation Banquet, held at the Social Steak House and Club. The event was also held to recognize Cynthia Bocanegra and Lee Castro as incoming chairwoman and outgoing chairman for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce. See story later in this posting.


Sergio Muñoz, Jr. joins area veterans in rallying support for Proposition 8


Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment that would help pave the way for construction of a Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in the Valley, deserves strong South Texas voter support, says Sergio Muñoz, Jr. a Democratic candidate for state representative, House District 36.

House District 36 includes Granjeno, Hidalgo, southern McAllen, most of Mission, Palmview, Peñitas, and Pharr.

Muñoz, an attorney and current Palmview municipal court judge, made his comments on Tuesday, October 6, in support of area veterans, who addressed the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court in Edinburg on  Proposition 8.

“I stand with generations of Valley veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much to protect our our lives and our freedoms,” said Muñoz. “Voting for Proposition 8 will help speed up a partnership between our great state and our great nation to bring a VA Hospital to our region.”

On Tuesday, November 3, Texans will be casting their ballots on 11 state constitutional amendments, including Proposition 8, which would provide clear constitutional authority for the state to contribute resources to establish, operate, and maintain veterans hospitals.

Texans may also cast their ballots ahead of time.

Early voting for Proposition 8 in Hidalgo County is going on from Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 30. Information on the times and locations of early voting substations is available by calling  the Hidalgo County Elections Department at 956/784-VOTE (8683).

“Our Valley veterans and their families have never been discouraged by politicians and bureaucrats who secretly wished that those veterans would quiet down or go away,” said Muñoz. “Our Valley veterans and their families have always been ready to speak truth to power.

State constitutional amendments draw low turnouts in Texas, “but Proposition 8 was specifically designed by South Texans to bring a badly-needed VA Hospital to our area,” said Muñoz.

A good voter turnout in the Valley for Proposition 8 would help put this issue over the top on November 3, he said.

“We know that a VA Hospital is a valuable asset to any metropolitan area, in terms of economic development, jobs-creation, medical care, and education, but Proposition 8 is also about what is right and just for the Valley,” said Muñoz.

The nearest VA Hospital is the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Hospital in San Antonio – about 250 miles away for Valley veterans who need the full-service medical therapies and treatments that only a comprehensive VA Hospital complex can provide, he noted.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs operates only nine in-patient veterans’ hospitals in Texas – in Amarillo, Big Spring, Bonham, Dallas, Houston, Kerville, San Antonio, Temple, and Waco – but none in the Rio Grande Valley, which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is one of the fastest growing regions in Texas, with more than one million residents (Hidalgo County, 726,200; Cameron County, 392,746; Starr County, 62,249; and Willacy County, 20,600).

The need for a Valley VA Hospital has drawn bipartisan support, he added.

“From the courthouse to the state house to the White House, leaders from both political parties have thrown their support for bringing a VA Hospital to deep South Texas,” Muñoz said.

Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, and Sen. John Cornyn, all Republicans, along with the Valley’s congressional delegation and former Texas Comptroller John Sharp, all Democrats, have been strong advocates of bringing a VA Hospital to the Valley.

But Muñoz had the highest praise for local veterans groups, area state lawmakers, and other community leaders for successfully passing legislation at the Texas Capitol last spring that placed Proposition 8 on the November 3 statewide ballot.

“Proposition 8 is an idea that came from South Texas, but will help thousands of veterans and their families throughout the state,” Muñoz said.

Proposition 8 is the creation of Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, who were authors of the measure in the Texas Legislature last spring that created Proposition 8.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen,  was the Senate sponsor of that legislation, with Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. D-Brownsville, serving as the cosponsor.

Political announcement paid for by Sergio Muñoz, Jr., 1110 South Closner Boulevard, Edinburg, Texas 78539.


Sen. Cornyn continues push for VA Hospital as Hidalgo County endorses Proposition 8


With political support in South Texas continuing to build for Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment designed to help construct a Veterans Affairs Hospital in deep South Texas, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is reminding President Obama of the president’s pledge to help make that goal a reality.

Proposition 8, which would authorize the state government to pool resources with the federal government to construct and maintain a VA Hospital in the Valley, is one of 11 state constitutional amendments that will face Texas voters statewide on Tuesday, November 3.

Early voting for Proposition 8 in Hidalgo County is going on from Monday, October 19 through Friday, October 30. Information on the times and locations of early voting substations is available by calling  the Hidalgo County Elections Department at 956/784-VOTE (8683).

In a letter by Cornyn to Obama, written on Thursday, October 9, the Republican senator put Obama and the Democratically-controlled Congress on the spot to make good on then-Sen. Obama’s promise to bring a VA Hospital to deep South Texas.

“I was very pleased that, as a member of the Senate in 2008, you cosponsored the South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act, which I had introduced to bring desperately needed inpatient medical facilities to the Rio Grande Valley,” Cornyn noted. “The Federal Government still fails to fully recognize the efforts and sacrifices of these brave Americans in defense of our country, despite repeated requests to the VA for help and recent legislative efforts on this issue.”

Last spring, Cornyn reintroduced his legislation to build a Valley VA Hospital.

In his correspondence to the President, Cornyn said he looked “forward to your continued commitment to and support for these great Americans and their fight to get a new VA inpatient hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.”

Cornyn also dismissed impressions being given by the VA Administration – through its ongoing efforts to locally expand health care options to Valley veterans – that the overwhelming majority of area veterans can now receive needed health care in South Texas.

“Although the VA’s recent efforts at bolstering access to quality medical services in South Texas have improved the situation, we have a long way to go to provide adequate, accessible inpatient care to the many veterans of the region,” Cornyn said. “But these measures should not be the last steps for the long-term. These heroes deserve, and their service demands, that we do more to properly care for them when inpatient care is required.”

County leaders endorse Proposition 8

Two days earlier, on Tuesday, October 6, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court approved a resolution, brought to them by the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley, urging South Texans to vote for Proposition 8.

Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Palmview, who joined the veterans group during the October 6 public meeting, said Proposition 8 would be “a direct mandate to the state government that it will work with the feds in providing whatever it takes to bring a VA Hospital down here.”

Flores was the lead author last spring of the state legislation that put Proposition 8 on the November   3 ballot.

Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio, also served as House authors of the Flores legislation.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, was the Senate sponsor of that measure, while Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, was a cosponsor of that House bill that led to Proposition 8.

Flores said the Valley legislators and local veteran groups were able to get Proposition 8 on the November statewide ballot without much help from the state House leadership.

“We went through a lot to get to this point. This was not a priority for the state in the legislative session,” Flores recalled. “It took a tremendous effort, a tremendous fight, from a lot of people involved.”

Flores noted that state constitutional amendments traditionally have low-voter turnouts, but when those ballot initiatives specifically affected the Valley, South Texas voters have come through.

In the past, Valley voters supported state constitutional amendments that brought multi-million dollar projects to the region – including measures which Flores directly shaped – that resulted in the June 2005 opening of the Alfredo González Texas State Veterans Home in McAllen and the December 2006 dedication of the Texas Veterans Cemetery in Mission.

Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas, III, acknowledged the work of area lawmakers and veterans, but singled out Flores’ efforts on Proposition 8.

“I know had it not been for you putting it on the front of your agenda, there would never have been a proposition for Texans to vote on,” Salinas observed. “For all the other issues that you have passed, I congratulate you. Thank you for allowing our veterans to get a step closer to this hospital.”

Members of the Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley who also attended the October 6 meeting of the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court included: Max Belmares; Henry Bruenelle; Louise Bruenelle; Rubén Cantú; Antonio Carmona; María Carmona; Udelia Cortés; Emilio de los Santos; Mike Escobedo; Homer Gallegos; Emily Garza; Joe Garza; Nelda Garza; Prax Pete Garza; Treto Garza; Janie Hinojosa; Leo Hinojosa; Mike Mejia; Mrs. and Mrs. Héctor Mercado; Ray Molano; Rey Oropez;  Lupe Peña; and Richard Peña.


Edinburg’s retail economy during August 2009 shows fourth monthly consecutive drop from 2008


Edinburg’s retail economy during August 2009, as measured by the amount of local and state sales taxes generated by a wide range of local businesses, was down almost eight percent over the same month in 2008, according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

The latest figure represents the fourth consecutive decrease when comparing monthly figures between this year and during 2008.

For the month of August 2009, Edinburg generated $1,058,650.84 in local sales taxes, compared with $1,147,959.41 in August 2008 – a decrease of 7.77 percent.

In July 2009, Edinburg’s monthly sales tax figure was 5.39 percent lower than the same month in 2008.

In June 2009, Edinburg’s monthly sales tax figure was 2.46 percent lower than the same month in 2008.

In May 2009,  Edinburg’s  monthly sales tax figure was almost five percent lower than the same month in 2008.

However, year-to-date –  from January 2009 through August 2009 – Edinburg was holding on to a positive showing, with the local retail economy during the that period up 5.66 percent over the same eight months last year.

Between January and August 2009, Edinburg’s retail economy generated $12,219,330.65 in local sales taxes, compared with $11,563,858.15 during the same period in 2008.

The report represents the latest figures compiled by the state, and announced on Friday, August 9.

The state and local sales tax figures represent sales that occurred in August, were collected by the state in September, and distributed back in October to local governments by the comptroller’s office in the form of rebates.

Retail businesses are required to collect both the local and state sales taxes and send them to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. The state government then sends the local share of the sales taxes to the communities in which they originated.

The local sales tax is used to help pay for dozens of major city services, ranging from new streets to city personnel.

Local sales taxes in Edinburg are generated by the city’s 1 1/2 cent local sales tax, and the 1/2 cent economic development sales tax that is administered by the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.

The EEDC, which is a city government entity, is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council. It sits on a public treasury of millions of dollars.

McAllen – the largest economic engine in South Texas – continued to share in the retail economic woes.

For August 2009, McAllen generated almost $4 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $4.4 million in August 2008 – a drop of almost 10 percent.

In July 2009, McAllen’s  monthly sales tax figure was almost five percent lower than the same month in 2008.

In June 2009, McAllen’s monthly sales tax figure was more than 11 percent lower than the same month in 2008.

Year-to-date, McAllen’s retail economy continued to remain sluggish.

From January through August 2009, McAllen generated more than $45.3 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $49.5 million during the same period in 2008 – a decrease of almost 8.5 percent.

For the month of August 2009, all cities in Hidalgo County generated more than $8.9 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $9.5 million in August 2008, a drop of almost seven percent.

Year-to-date, all cities in Hidalgo County have generated almost $101 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $104.5 million during the same eight months in 2008, a decrease of 3.47 percent.

The county itself does not collect a local sales tax.

Comparable cities in Hidalgo County also posted negative numbers for August 2009.

  • Pharr’s latest monthly retail sales activities dropped more than 18 percent, generating $759,706.14 in August 2009 compared with almost $930,000 in August 2008;
  • Mission almost broke even, generating almost $958,000 in August, compared to more than $969,000 in August 2008, a decrease of more than one percent;
  • Weslaco generated more than $678,000 in local sales tax activities in August 2009, compared with more than $717,000 in July 2008, a drop of 5.41 percent.

Also posting decreases were the two key communities in Cameron County.

Brownsville, the Valley’s most populated city, saw its retail economy in August  2009 generate less local sales tax revenue than during the same month in 2008.

In August 2009, Brownsville generated almost $2.4 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $2.6 million in August 2008 – a drop of 9.05 percent.

Harlingen performed even worse than Brownsville.

In August 2009, Harlingen reported more than $1.3 million in local sales taxes, compared with more than $1.6 million in August 2008, a decrease of 17.03 percent.

All cities in Cameron County generated a total of more than $4.6 million in local sales taxes in August 2009, compared with more than $5.1 million in August 2008, a drop of 9.38 percent.

Cameron County does not collect a county sales tax.

At the statewide level, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs offered her assessments:

“Declining sales tax collections, which began in February, have continued with September’s collections,” Combs said. “Weakness is still evident in all major sectors of the state economy, including oil and natural gas, retail trade, and construction. Decreases in monthly collections are expected to continue through the end of 2009.”

Combs sent local governments $418.5 million in monthly sales tax allocations, a 7.6 percent decrease compared to a year ago. So far this calendar year, local sales tax allocations are down 3.7 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

Combs distributed monthly sales tax allocations of $282.8 million to Texas cities, down 7.3 percent compared to last October. Texas counties received sales tax allocations of $25.5 million, down 10.7 percent compared to a year ago.

The 153 special purpose taxing districts around the state got $16.7 million in sales tax revenue, a decrease of 1.4 percent compared to a year ago. Ten Texas transit systems received $93.3 million in sales tax, down 8.4 percent compared to a year ago.

The state and local sales tax figures represent sales that occurred in August.

For details of sales tax allocations to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, locate the Monthly Sales and Use Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports on the Comptroller’s Web site

The Comptroller’s next local sales tax allocation will be made on Friday, November 6.


Former Rep. Looney, EHA executive director Treviño, named Man and Woman of the Year by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce


Former Rep. Cullen R. Looney, D-Edinburg, a local attorney, and Estella Lane Treviño, a former justice of the peace and longtime executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority, have been named Man and Woman of the Year by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

The announcement came on Saturday, October 3, during the local organization’s Annual Installation Banquet, held at the Social Steak House and Club.

The event was also held to recognize Cynthia Bocanegra and Lee Castro as incoming chairwoman and outgoing chairman for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Treviñõ, the chamber’s Woman of the Year 2009, has led a storied life, from her birth on August 6, 1922 through today.  She was born in Red Gate, which is located north of Edinburg, to Jack and Estella Lane. She graduated from Edinburg High School in 1939 at the age of 16.

Her business career began at an early age, earning her beautician’s license and opening her own Beauty Salon at the age of 18. She married the love of her life; José Luis Treviño on June 27, 1946.  They had one daughter, Chiqui, who married George Guerra and now reside in McAllen. Treviño also has three grandchildren: Brian Joseph, Leanne Marie and Steven Michael.

The Man of the Year 2009 was born in 1946 in Edinburg to Margaret M. and J.C. Looney.  He graduated from Edinburg High School in 1964, attended Texas A & M University and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BBA in Finance in 1968. He went on to earn his Doctors of Jurisprudence in 1973 from the University Of Texas School Of Law. After serving three years in the United States Army as a 1st Lieutenant, he returned to his hometown and established a successful law practice with the Kelley Looney Law Firm.

In addition to the Man and Woman of the Year honors, the chamber also recognized:

  • Dr. Walter Greene as Chamber Champion of the Year;
  • Doug Martin with Martin Farm & Ranch Supply with the Outstanding Leadership Award;
  • Mrs. Olga Martínez, Primary Teacher of the Year with the Edinburg school district;
  • Ms. Jennifer Cabello, Secondary Teacher of the Year with the Edinburg school district;
  • Clarice Martínez, Employee of the Year with the Edinburg city government; and
  • Ubaldo D. Pérez, Edinburg’s Fireman of the Year.

The chamber extended special thanks for its annual event to: The City of Edinburg; Lee Castro with Memorial Funeral Home; Cynthia Bocanegra with Chaps Bar & Grill; the Man and Woman of the Year special committee; Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 4 Óscar Garza; Charles Clark Chevrolet; Doctors Hospital At Renaissance; Edinburg Improvement; First National Bank; G&S Glass; Horizon Properties; The Hotel Motel Association; IBC Bank; Memorial Funeral Home; Texas Gas Service; and Sudarshan Eye Experts.

Estella Treviño Biography

Treviño developed a fondness for public affairs, helping many candidates with their campaigns, so she decided to get more actively involved in politics by running for justice of the peace in the early 1960s. She was elected and served as JP for six years, helping Edinburg constituents with their legal issues. After her last term as justice of the peace, she continued working in the public arena by joining the hotel industry as a night auditor. She served in this capacity for six years.

On February 27, 1972, she was hired as executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority.

In that leadership position, she has done so much more than provide affordable housing for low-income families and the elderly. Through her leadership, Edinburg has become renowned for having one of the best housing programs in the nation.

As EHA executive director, she has increased the number of housing units from 150 to 469, providing housing for low-income families as well as elderly and disabled residents.  Under her direction, the local housing authority was one of the first such organizations to apply for the Section 8 Program.

Section 8, more formally known as The Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a type of Federal assistance provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dedicated to sponsoring subsidized housing for low-income families and individuals.

Treviño played a major role in assisting HUD develop the policies for what is now known as the Voucher Program. She also made sure that EHA was the first to have a joint venture with the Texas Tropical MHMR to offer housing to participants under the Moderate Rehabilitation Program.

She developed, the Family Self Sufficiency Program providing for home ownership for low-income families.

Her dream to provide housing for the elderly happened with the opening of the Towers Complex in 1973. She developed many additional programs during her continuing career, such as the Drug Elimination Program and the Sports Youth Program, to help young tenants stay away from drugs and develop an interest in sports.

Among the many national, state and local board and committees, she also served as the regional advisory member of The Resolution Trust Oversight Board. President George Bush appointed her to the national board.

She was elected to the Silver Haired Legislator in 1986, and has served 12 terms.

She has authored several bills where the elderly of Texas have benefited.

She has been an active member with the national, state and local chapters of the agencies that train the Housing Authority staff and has held the position of president of the Texas Housing Association twice.

She has also been an advocate for education, serving on the Board of Trustees for the South Texas Independent School for several years. Her personal achievement awards are numerous and include The Texas National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Member of the Year Award in 1998, the Texas NAHRO Hall of Fame Award, and the Housing Association of Valley Housing Employees Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Mrs. T”,  as she is affectionately known, has been the executive director of the Edinburg Housing Authority for the past 37 years, where she has helped many Edinburg families fulfill the American Dream of owning a home.

She has served on many civic organizations and held several offices, including Sacred Heart Mother Club, Edinburg Hospital Auxiliary, League of Women Voters, Hidalgo County Democratic Women, Texas Department of Aging, and the Edinburg Lions Club.

Cullen R. Looney Biography

As with Treviño, Looney’s record of service is indicative of the various facets of his career.

In 1977, voters in then-House District 59A elected him to serve as state representative in the Texas House of Representatives. He held the office until 1981.

Looney is involved in both local and statewide organizations. He is currently or has been a member or director to groups, including:

  • The State Bar of Texas
  • The Museum of South Texas History;
  • The Edinburg Boys and Girls Club, where he served as Capital Campaign Co-Chairman;
  • The South Texas Higher Education Authority;
  • Security State Bank, where he served as Chairman of the Board from 1983 through 1996;
  • The Edinburg Improvement Association;
  • The Rio Valley Sports Authority;
  • The University of Texas Chancellor’s Council;
  • The Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center Advisory Board;
  • The First Valley Bank Advisory Council;
  • The Edinburg Industrial Foundation;
  • The Salvation Army; the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show;
  • The Raúl Tijerina, Jr. Foundation; and
  • The Texas Cowboys – University of Texas at Austin Honorary Men’s Organization.

He served on the Texas Ethics Commission from 2004-2007, serving as chairman in 2006.

He was recently appointed to the Texas Department of Transportation 2030 Committee.

He is married to Carol Lynn Smith, has two daughters, Lorin Connor and Courtney Lynn, and one son, the late William Kelly, who was tragically killed in Mexico.

Nanette N. Palomo, marketing director for Valley Land Title Company, contributed to this article.


Sentencing set for Arnold Maldonado, 45, of Edinburg, Jonathan Dappen, 29, of McAllen for their roles in theft and sale of PEMEX products


A criminal information charging an Edinburg man and a McAllen man for their roles in brokering the sale of petroleum products stolen from Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) was unsealed following the guilty plea of the third defendant on Friday, October 9.

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agents in Charge Jerry Robinette (San Antonio) and Robert Rutt (Houston). The charges are the result of an on-going investigation into the theft of Mexican petroleum products, particularly condensate, and the transport and sale of the petroleum product to companies in the United States.

The criminal information filed under seal in September 2009 was unsealed as to each defendant as each entered their plea of guilty to conspiring to receive and sell stolen goods. Arnold Maldonado, 45, of Edinburg, entered his guilty plea on September 25, 2009, while Jonathan Dappen, 29, of McAllen, pleaded guilty on October 2, 2009.

On Friday, October 9, Stephen Pechenick, 78, of San Antonio, pleaded guilty.

Each of the three defendants face up to five years imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines for their respective convictions.

In 2007, the Government of Mexico provided information to ICE alleging numerous companies and individuals were involved in the theft of petroleum products from the Mexican oil company PEMEX and the subsequent sale of the stolen petroleum in the United States. The ICE investigation involving agents from both the San Antonio and Houston offices found that various companies imported Mexican condensate stolen from PEMEX into the United States. The import companies received and coordinated the movement of semi-truck tankers loaded with stolen condensate from Mexico into the U.S. via a land border Port of Entry. The import companies, which directed the tanker trucks to deliver the petroleum to locations inside the Port of Brownsville, were paid by wire transfer to various accounts in a scheme that amounted to the sale of millions of dollars in stolen petroleum.

The ICE investigation, which was coordinated with Mexico, traced the receipt of the stolen petroleum to certain middlemen, who, in turn, brokered the sale of the stolen petroleum products to U.S. companies. Jonathan Dappen brokered transactions between U.S. and Mexican companies. Two of the U.S. companies identified as having received and coordinated the movement of the stolen petroleum were Y Oil and Gas through Arnold Maldonado, and Valley Fuels through Steve Pechenik.

The U.S. companies paid the importers of the stolen Mexican petroleum and then stored the product until a sufficient quantity accumulated to load on a barge. As the stolen petroleum moved further from the border, other individuals became involved in the scheme, such as Donald Schroeder, 60, of Houston. Schroeder, the president of Trammo Petroleum, was the first to be charged as a result of this ongoing investigation and entered a plea of guilty on May 29, 2009, and is pending sentencing on Dec. 18, 2009.

United States District Judge Ewing Werlein accepted the guilty pleas of Maldonado, Dappen and Pechenick and has sent sentencing for January 8, 2010, for Maldonado and January 15, 2010, for Dappen. Pechenick is also set to be sentenced in January 2010.


Plan to construct $6.5 billion addition to U.S. border wall is defeated by area congressmen


Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Thursday, October 8, announced that a costly border fence amendment authored by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, has been dropped from the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.

“When the Government Accountability Office tells you this would cost Americans $6.5 billion, I say those dollars are better invested into supporting the manpower and resources at Customs and Border Patrol and local law enforcement,” said Cuellar. “The DeMint amendment represented an unproductive and inefficient border security strategy. We need to invest and secure our border and our land ports without being tied down to an amendment that is out of touch with border needs.”

DeMint’s amendment would have required at least 300 miles of new pedestrian barrier fencing to be completed along the border by December 31, 2010. Last year, the Government Accountability Office estimated that each mile of border fencing would cost $7 million to construct.

“Today, I join other border congressmen in commending House leadership for striking this amendment; they’ve decided to increase the funding for CBP and ICE, investing over $15 billion into securing our border through manpower and technology at the federal, state and local levels,” said Cuellar. “This is the kind of flexibility we need at a time when we’re adapting to the evolving threats along the border. We have to secure our border with a sensible, effective strategy.”

In July and again in October, Cuellar spearheaded a letter with the support of other border lawmakers from Texas, Arizona and California. Lawmakers referred to DeMint’s amendment as “wasteful spending” which would come at “enormous taxpayer expense.”

Cuellar and other border lawmakers urged House leadership to block the proposal which called for 700 miles of pedestrian border fencing.

“I want to thank all my border colleagues for their efforts, in particular Congressman Ciro Rodríguez, in removing the DeMint amendment from the final homeland security bill,” said Cuellar. “As a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Conference Committee, Rodriguez provided a crucial voice for the border and carried our concerns to the conference.”

In addition to Cuellar, other border lawmakers who have been working to remove this provision since include: Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, Congressman Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi; Bob Filner, D-California; Congressman Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona; Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona; and Congresswoman Susan Davis, D-California.


UT-Pan American awarded $1.2 million grant Reinvestment Act to help nonprofit agencies


Helping grassroots and nonprofit organizations in Hidalgo and Cameron County improve their services will be the sole purpose of a new $1.2 million grant received by The University of Texas-Pan American Division of Community Engagement.

The goal of the grant is to improve the ability of nonprofit organizations to create jobs and drive economic improvement through job training and retention and access to state and federal benefits.

“One of the things this institution is suppose to deliver in addition to academics and research is service to the community – the three legs of the stool of higher education – and this epitomizes the service delivery mission of UT Pan American,” said James R. Langabeer, vice president for the Division of Business Affairs and acting vice president for Community Engagement.

Comprised of two programs – the State, Local and Tribal Government Capacity Building Program and the Nonprofit Capacity Building Program – the SCF awarded the one-time, two-year grant to UTPA’s Southwest Border Nonprofit Resource Center (SBNRC) under the Division of Community Engagement, which provides a wide array of services to area nonprofit organizations, for its SBNRC Nonprofit Capacity Building Initiative.

The Nonprofit Capacity Building Program, which UTPA was classified in, funds intermediary agencies, which work with community organizations to enhance their economic recovery activities.

Helping secure the grant for UTPA was Jessica Salinas, executive director for Community and Economic Development and principal investigator, Michael Uhrbrock, associate director of Economic Development, and Cristina Trevino, special projects coordinator.

“This is one of President (Barack) Obama’s major initiatives. He really believes in social responsibility and that is why a lot of money is being given to grassroots organizations,” Salinas said. “These funds are to help organizations build capacity and make them better sustaining and have them better fit to deliver their services to the community.”

Salinas said the grant will provide the 10-year-old SBNRC with tangible resources to deliver their services to the nonprofit community, which will provide technical assistance, professional workshops, board development, computer literacy and equipment and other capacity-building support to organizations that qualify for the funds.

To receive funding or assistance, interested organizations will have to apply with the SBNRC. Salinas is expecting to kick off the application process in spring 2010 after careful planning and development of the application with SCF to ensure all federal and state criteria are met she said.

Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, who supported the funding, applauded UTPA for its efforts in helping boost the South Texas economy. Hinojosa said through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, nonprofit programs will be better able to help people in need.

“UTPA has had from the start, a dedicated commitment to its community,” Hinojosa said. “UTPA’s tremendous educational achievements joined with their expanding plans for the future of education in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond, are a tribute to their understanding of what is needed for the people. This federal funding will go a long way to help those in need.”

To learn more about SBNRC, visit or call 956/381-3361.


Congressman Cuellar: U.S. troops may qualify for extension of $8,000 Homebuyer Tax Credit Program


Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo/McAllen, on Friday, October 9, announced the House of Representatives voted to extend for a full year the first-time homebuyer tax credit program for military service members.

The program, available to first-time homebuyers, is currently scheduled to end this December.

“During these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to keep our troops overseas in mind,” said Cuellar. “By extending and modifying this program, we ensure that our troops have the opportunity to take full advantage of these tax credits.”

The Homebuyer Tax Credit Program was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which Congress passed in February 2009. The bill provides a tax credit worth up to $8,000 to first-time homebuyers who purchase homes between January 1, 2009 and December 1, 2009.

A few days earlier, the House passed H.R. 3590, the Service Members Home Ownership Act, and if passed by the Senate and signed by the President, the bill would extend the deadline of the program by one year for military personnel. The measure would also ensure that service members would not be required to repay the tax credit if deployed to a different location within three years of buying their home.

“These are common sense changes to the program which will have a positive impact on the lives of our men and women in uniform,” said Cuellar. “It’s my hope that we’re able to extend this tax credit to all Americans for another year. This is a good start.”

The Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act is supported by organizations such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America and the National Association of Realtors.

This deficit-neutral incentive program is paid for by increases in IRS penalties for failure to file certain corporate income tax returns, and meets the fiscally conservative Pay-As-You-Go spending rules passed by the House this summer.

For more information on this program, visit:,,id=204671,00.html


Carlos Rubenstein, Pan American University alumnus, sworn in by Gov. Perry to lead Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday, October 7, ceremonially administered the oath of office to Carlos Rubinstein of Brownsville, an alumnus of Pan American University, as one of the three leaders on the  Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). As one of three commissioners, Rubinstein oversees and establishes policy for the state’s lead environmental permitting and enforcement agency.

He received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Pan American University.

“Texas is making great strides toward improving air quality without enacting broad and sweeping mandates thanks to efforts by TCEQ and its leadership,” Perry said. “Carlos’ expertise in water issues is a true asset to the commission and the state as we continue to manage this precious natural resource.”

Texas continues to make tremendous improvements in air quality even as our population increases by 1,000 people a day. The air we breathe in Texas is cleaner today than it was 20 years ago. Statewide, ozone levels have decreased by 22 percent from 2000 to 2008.

Rubinstein is former deputy executive director of TCEQ, where his responsibilities included assisting the executive director in all major capacities such as directing operations of all employees in 17 statewide offices, administrative oversight of agency budget, legislative activity, and implementation of agency policies.

He is a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee on NAFTA to the EPA administrator, North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, and Commission for Environmental Cooperation. He is also a Texas representative to the Border Governors Conference Water Worktable, and was instrumental in finding a solution to Mexico’s water debt to the U.S. as Rio Grande Watermaster. Rubinstein is also former Brownsville city manager.


Linda McKenna of Harlingen, alumnus of  UT-Pan American, appointed to Texas State Technical College System Board of Directors

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed three members to the Texas State Technical College System Board of Directors – including Linda McKenna of Harlingen – for terms to expire August 31, 2015.

The board establishes policies to direct and govern the Texas State Technical College System to assure compliance with legislative intent.

She earned a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas Pan American.

McKenna, an alumnus of The University of Texas-Pan American, is a registered nurse and past senior vice president of Valley Baptist Health System. She is a fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives and a graduate of Leadership Texas and Leadership Harlingen.

She is also past president of the Cameron County Medical Society Alliance, North Cameron American Heart Association, and Harlingen High School PTSA. McKenna is a former board member of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement. She is a past member of the Texas Public Finance Authority and past chair of the Governor’s Commission for Women.

McKenna received a nursing degree from Baptist Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Tennessee, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville.

The other two new members selected by Perry are Penny Forrest of Waco, who is librarian and museum curator for the Scottish Rite Foundation of Texas, and James Virgil “J.V.” Martin of Sweetwater, who is CEO and chairman of the board of First Financial Bank of Sweetwater.


Pharr Police Chief Villescas named to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed three members to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education – including Pharr Police Chief Rubén Villescas – for terms to expire August 30, 2015. The board ensures Texans are served by highly trained and ethical law enforcement and corrections personnel by setting standards, screening and developing and monitoring resources.

Villescas is a regional director of the Texas Police Chiefs Association, a member of the Pharr Police Academy Advisory Board, and a member and past president of the Rio Grande Valley Police Chiefs Association.

He is also past vice chairman of the Domestic Violence Task Force for the Rio Grande Valley, and a past member of the Pharr Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors and the Pharr Lions Club. Villescas attended Pan American University, received a master’s peace officers certificate from the Texas Commission on Law enforcement Officers Standards and Education and is a graduate of the Sam Houston State University Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas and FBI National Academy.

Melissa Goodwin of Austin, an attorney with Potts & Reilly LLP, and J.B. Pennington of Jersey Village, a senior police officer with the Houston Police Department and the liaison officer for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office,


Martín Rivas named membership director for Edinburg Chamber of Commerce


Martín Rivas is the newest membership director for the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce.

He is a recent graduate from the University of Texas-Pan American from the College of Social and Behavioral Studies in General Studies.

Originally from the Delta Area, Rivas has worked for several not-for-profit organizations such as the Llano Grande Center as their media/technical director located in the Edcouch-Elsa region, and the Center for Ethical Leadership doing contract work as a Youth CO for the second round of a grant received from the Kellogg foundation.  In his role as Youth CO,  he learned many skills found within the nonprofit sector. He awaits the many challenges that his position has and seeing all chamber members.

“Martín comes highly qualified and we look forward to introducing him to our chamber members, volunteers and the community of Edinburg,” said Letty González, chamber president.


Gov. Perry appoints Appellate Justice Eva M. Guzmán of Cypress as first Hispanic female to Supreme Court of Texas

Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday, October 8, appointed Appellate Justice Eva M. Guzmán of Cypress as the first Hispanic female to serve on the Supreme Court of Texas for a term to expire at the next general election.

“Justice Guzmán is known throughout legal circles as a strict constructionist with an unmatched work ethic, and has demonstrated a proven record of sound jurisprudence,” Perry said. “I am proud to appoint this principled, conservative judge as the first Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court of Texas.”

Guzmán is an associate justice on the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, where she has ruled on thousands of civil and criminal appeals, and authored hundreds of published opinions. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

She has served in the Texas judiciary for more than a decade as the first Hispanic female appointed and then elected to the Harris County Family Court, and then as the first Hispanic female appointed and then elected to the 14th Court of Appeals.  Since her appointment to the 14th Court of Appeals, Guzman has issued more than 900 opinions.

“I am honored by this appointment and am grateful for the confidence Governor Perry has shown in me,” Guzmán said. “It has been a privilege to serve the citizens of this region over the last decade, and I look forward to serving all Texas citizens as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court.”

Guzmán was recently recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association as Latina Judge of the Year and as 2009 Judge of the Year by the Mexican American Bar Association of Texas Foundation. She has also been named Appellate Judge of the Year by P.O.L.I.C.E. Inc. and the Houston Police Officers Union.

Guzmán is an elected member of the American Law Institute and an appointed member of the Supreme Court of Texas Advisory Committee. She is a senior fellow of the American Leadership Forum Class XXII, and a fellow of the Texas and Houston Bar foundations. Guzman is also a board member of the South Texas College of Law Alumni Association, Greater Houston Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Texas Executive Women.

Guzmán received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and law degree from South Texas College of Law. She is married to Houston Police Sergeant Antonio Guzmán, and they have one daughter, Melanie Alexis.

The governor also paid tribute to Justice Scott Brister, who Guzmán replaces, saying he leaves a strong legacy.


Senate passes Sen. Hutchison bill to allow prisons to employ cell jamming technology


A measure by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, that would allow prisons to block calls from contraband cellular phones has unanimously passed the Senate.

Sen. John Cornyn was one of several cosponsors of the Hutchison legislation, which now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration and action.

The measure, which was approved on Monday, October 5,  would prevent prison inmates from using smuggled cellular phones by allowing states to petition to operate wireless jamming devices in particular correctional facilities.

“This legislation will disconnect the communications networks that prisoners and criminal enterprises have patched together using smuggled cell phones,” said Hutchison. “With innocent lives on the line, Congress has a responsibility to give the nation’s law enforcement community the tools necessary to effectively fight this growing problem. By adding cell jamming technology to the tools our corrections professionals can deploy, we can prevent criminals from terrorizing Americans from behind bars – even when phones evade detection and discovery and fall into convicts’ hands. I urge my colleagues in the House to swiftly pass this legislation.”

Last year, a death row inmate used a smuggled cell phone to harass and make deaths against Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. When officers discovered the cell phone that was used to terrorize Whitmire and his family, they also uncovered 11 additional phones belonging to other death row inmates in the same facility.

Cell phones are being smuggled into prisons nationwide.

In 2008, corrections systems across the country reported large numbers of confiscated phones. California reported nearly 3,000 phones found with inmates, while Mississippi had nearly 2,000, while the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported they confiscated more than 1,600 phones.

Her measure, dubbed The Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 (S. 251), is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

The legislation has gained the support of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and 19 other governors, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the Washington, D.C. Department of Corrections, the Association of State Correctional Administrators, the American Jail Association, the American Correctional Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the American Federation of State, the County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Governors Association, and the Council of State Governments.

The Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 (S. 251), is cosponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Jon Cornyn (R-Texas), David Vitter (R-La.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Below is a summary of the key points in S. 251 – the Safe Prisons Communications Act:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must conduct a rulemaking regarding the potential use of wireless jamming equipment in correctional facilities. As part of this rulemaking the Commission must solicit and consider the input of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and one or more outside technical bodies with expertise in standards setting. The Commission must also consider all available technologies capable of preventing the use of unauthorized wireless communications in correctional facilities.

• In addition to this rulemaking, the Commission must also establish rules and criteria for the approval of jamming systems and devices before accepting petitions for a waiver of the prohibition on devices that cause intentional interference with wireless communications.

• Requires the FCC to conduct field testing of all devices submitted for approval and that approved devices operate at the lowest possible power output necessary to facilitate jamming and operate on a directionalized basis to limit the chance for interference. The measure also provides that devices and systems approved by the Commission may only be sold, marketed, or operated by approved correctional facilities.

• Prior to filing a petition for a waiver, a correctional facility will provide a notice of intent to the Commission (which will notify public safety and commercial wireless providers in an area). This will begin a limited coordination period during which the facility and public safety/commercial wireless entities may consult on wireless use in the areas adjacent to the facility and on the selection and proposed configuration of jamming systems and devices to minimize anticipated interference.

• At the conclusion of this short consultation process, the correctional facility may file its waiver request with the Commission. Following approval of a waiver, a correctional facility may install and configure the jamming system and associated devices. However, prior to powering on the devices there is a second brief coordination period to allow public safety entities in particular the opportunity to inspect the installation to guarantee that the system was configured and installed in a manner that avoids anticipated interference. This is approach will ensure that jammers are not installed improperly and cause otherwise avoidable interference. The bill also coordinates other aspects of the procedure with changes to the timelines to make sure that these new requirements do not needlessly delay the availability of jamming technology.

• Finally, the bill requires post-installation and operation safeguards for the shutdown of a jamming system if there is actual interference that was not anticipated in the device approval or coordination processes. Additionally, each correctional facility approved to operate a jamming system must have a documented procedure to shut down the systems and devices in any circumstance where a public safety entity is responding to an incident at the prison (fires, riots, etc.) to make sure there is no potential interference with public safety radios.


Bloggers in certain instances to be required to reveal more about financial links to issues they promote

The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The decision was released on Monday, October 9, 2009.

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect –  must be disclosed.

These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.

Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised Guides.

While the 1980 Guides did not explicitly state that endorsers as well as advertisers could be liable under the FTC Act for statements they make in an endorsement, the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement – or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice detailing the changes was 4- 0. The notice will be published in the Federal Register shortly, and is available now on the FTC’s Web site as a link to this press release. Copies also are available from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

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