Two Men Plead Guilty To Stealing $1.5 Million In Border Wall Construction Panels: Report

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Kate Hirzel Contributor
Font Size:

Two men pleaded guilty Monday to stealing more than $1.5 million worth of taxpayer-funded border wall panels from a Texas construction site, a local news outlet reports.

Jose Emmanuel Gonzalez and Juan Nestor Rojas were charged with theft of public property after allegedly stealing roughly 215 border panels between August and December 2021, local outlet MyRGV reported Wednesday.

The Pharr Police Department (PPD) was first notified in December 2021, when Strong Structural Steel vice president Jerry Ring told law enforcement that 110 metal border wall panels had gone missing from the site. Each panel measured 32 feet by eight feet. The panels were valued at $7,000 individually, the outlet reported, citing Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Fry.

Ring told investigators he believed Strong employees carried out the alleged theft, because only one employee had the key to the company’s forklift, MyRGV reported in 2021. Gonzalez previously worked at the company as an operations assistant, according to the outlet. (RELATED: Homeland Security Rescues Two Mexican Nationals Who Were Allegedly Smuggled Across Border, Kidnapped In Hotel)

Investigators eventually found some of the wall panels at a scrap yard in Weslaco, Texas, and also discovered that some paneling had been used to construct a patio. “There were actually two structures that were built at that location that were recovered. Some patio type structures, pavilion type structure that they actually used from that site to build,” PPD Deputy Police Chief William Edmunson told KRGV.

The two men’s sentencing is set to take place in late July, according to MyRGV.

The construction of the wall at the southern border remains a hot button issue for the Biden administration. Construction has persisted in some places despite President Joe Biden redirecting taxpayer funding for the border wall on his first day in office in 2020.

Democratic California Sen. Steve Padilla spoke out against the Biden administration’s purpoted lack of action when construction of “30-foot border walls” began in the Friendship Park area in March. “This is an incredibly sad missed opportunity,” Padilla said. “This is not si se puede. This is no we can’t, and we’re not even going to try.” Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers remain critical of the administration’s alleged mishandling of the border.

PPD did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.