Texas –A former Liberty County Judge and Commissioner, and a local businessman have all been indicted in a hurricane fraud scheme in the Eastern District of Texas announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today.
John “Phil” Fitzgerald, 51, of Liberty, Texas, Herman “Lee” Groce, 62, of Cleveland, Texas, and Mark Wayne Miksch, 52, of LaVernia, Texas, were named in a 25-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Jan. 26, 2011.
The defendants have been summoned and will make their initial appearances on Feb. 1, 2011 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines.
The indictment alleges that following Hurricane Ike’s landfall on Sep. 13, 2008, Fitzgerald, the Liberty County Judge, and Groce, the Liberty County Precinct 2 Commissioner, used their elected positions to fraudulently influence and award debris removal contracts to a company in return for sub-contracts being awarded to Fitzgerald’s brother-in-law and businessman, Miksch.
As part of the scheme, Fitzgerald is alleged to have received approximately $611,000.00 in kickbacks disguised as legitimate business transactions.
Additionally, Fitzgerald is charged with the unauthorized use of a 155 kilowatt generator which was purchased by and for the benefit of Liberty County and then reimbursed by FEMA.
Instead, Fitzgerald is alleged to have commandeered and used the generator to power Fitzpak, a convenience store and gas station in Moss Hill, which Fitzgerald owned and operated.