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Former Valentine ISD Business Manager Arrested For Allegedly Stealing School Funds

The former business manager and tax assessor-collector for Valentine ISD, Ernesto “Ernie” Villarreal Jr., was arrested on Monday for allegedly misappropriating school district funds for personal expenses.

According to The Big Bend Sentinel, Villarreal, 42, was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 13. The indictment includes one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds and eight counts of wire fraud. According to the indictment, Villarreal engaged in multiple schemes to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud, convert, and misapply property owned and controlled by the District.

Documents obtained by the Sentinel showed that Villareal used Valentine ISD credit cards for his own purchases including, purchases for travel, lodging, home improvements, hardware store purchases, personal cell phone bills, fuel, oils changes, convenience store purchases, university tuition payments, among others.

If convicted, Villarreal could face up to 10 years in prison for the federal theft charge and up to 20 years for each wire fraud charge.

Villarreal voluntarily surrendered himself to the FBI upon his indictment, according to his attorney, Shane O’Neal.

“He voluntarily turned himself in,” O’Neal said. “He’s eager to address the government’s allegations. We were happy that the judge recognized his cooperation by finding that he should be released while we work through this case.”

Villarreal began working at Valentine ISD in 2006. He was placed on administrative leave in the fall of 2022 after a routine audit of the 2021-2022 school year uncovered approximately $165,000 in unauthorized transactions and instances of falsified documents. This prompted a forensic audit and a criminal investigation by state and federal authorities.

He served on the Marfa ISD Board of Trustees from September 2021 until his resignation in February 2024, after being largely absent from board meetings during the 2023-2024 school year. The Big Bend Sentinel reported that he attended only three of the 14 previous board meetings, all of which were attended remotely.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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