A trustee with Houston Community College has been convicted of bribing a public official concerning programs receiving federal funds, announced U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas says Chris Oliver, 53, of Houston, pleaded guilty to taking bribes in exchange for the promise of official actions related to his duties as a member of the college's board of trustees.
Oliver was charged in March and pleaded guilty in May, but the case was under seal until earlier this month.
Prosecutors say Oliver admitted meeting with another individual on several occasions at various restaurants and coffee shops in Houston where he accepted cash payments in exchange for promising to use his position to help that person secure contracts with HCC.
Oliver pleaded guilty to taking $12,000 in bribes, court records show. KTRK-TV reports that according to court records, Karun Sreerama, who is now the city of Houston's public works director, gave Oliver payments of just over $77,000 between December 2010 and August 2013.
Chip Lewis, Sreerama's attorney, says he gave Oliver the money thinking his engineering and construction management firm, ESPA Inc., wouldn't get work without it, Lewis says Oliver approached Sreerama three times asking for money.
At the first meeting, Oliver allegedly told Sreerama he was going through a divorce and could not pay expenses for two households. Sreerama allegedly loaned Oliver thousands of dollars after that meeting. It was never paid back.