DALLAS - A prominent El Paso contractor that has built numerous bond-financed schools and public facilities may be forced to liquidate after its top executive was indicted in an alleged bribery scheme.
Hartford Insurance Co. on Monday filed a petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking a forced Chapter 7 filing by the Sambrano Corp., its president Steven M. Sambrano and two family members who share ownership of the company, Cecilia and Adelina Sambrano.
Hartford, which provided surety bonds for several bond-financed projects on which the contractor defaulted, is seeking to recover more than $1.4 million in SamCorp debts that it paid.
Compass Bank also filed a civil lawsuit last week in federal court seeking to recover a $4 million loan made to the corporation in September. The bank claims that the loan was not used to pay off a previous bank loan, the purpose for which it was approved.
Steven Sambrano is scheduled to go to trial in October in McAllen on charges that he used an intermediary to bribe members of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District in South Texas. The bribes allegedly included trips, event tickets, and prostitutes.
SamCorp, which appears inactive, failed to complete work on an $8.2 million El Paso recreation center project in June that was also insured by Hartford.
Hartford also covered defaults on a $5.9 million contract to build a bookstore at Steven Sambrano's alma mater, the University of Texas at El Paso, the North Loop Elementary School in the Ysleta Independent School District,and an athletic field house at Ysleta High School. Those projects are all in the El Paso area.
Last spring, another El Paso area district, the Socorro Independent School District, revoked SamCorp's $23 million contract for new high school in Pebble Hills because of Sambrano's indictment.
In South Texas, SamCorp built the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD administration building, San Juan Elementary, and South Pharr Elementary.
Steven Sambrano and his associate Ramiro Guzman were indicted March 25 and pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in McAllen on April 3.
They were accused of providing bribes in exchange for contracts for two elementary schools and a maintenance building between 2000 and 2004.
The indictment alleged that Guzman, hired by Sambrano to be a consultant for SamCorp, "purchased and caused the purchase of items of value for and to the benefit of various public officials at PSJA-ISD."
Six people, including PSJA superintendent Arturo Guajardo and two school board members, Roy Navarro and Vangie Garcia-De Leon, were indicted in 2007 in the alleged scheme. Also indicted were the district's former insurance agent of record, Arnulfo Oliavarez, Garcia-De Leon's husband Richard De Leon, and Donna Independent School District board member George Hernandez.
The indictments claim that Hernandez and Oliavarez acted as middlemen in the bribery scheme.
The indictment details reasons for the federal investigation, including the use of federal funds by the school district and the interstate transactions involving bond finance. Bonds approved by voters in 1997 and 1999 for work on the schools totaled more than $103 million, according to the indictment.