Beginning early Friday morning, Texas Rangers swarmed across Houston, seizing documents and electronics from the Harris County Administration board offices to investigate a COVID-19 contract awarded to a company with alleged ties to members of the county administration. Other places have also been and are visited by rangers.
The DPS did not return calls from 13 investigators.
In a brief statement, the Harris County Attorney’s Office told 13 Investigates, “A judge has signed search warrants that constitute legal authorization to seek and seize potential evidence of a crime. In fairness to all involved, we have no further comment at this time.”
Note: The video above is from a previous report.
It’s the latest and most public sign of an intensified investigation into how a multi-million dollar COVID-19 contract was awarded to a company called Elevate Strategies.
Elevate Strategies, led by Felicity Pereyra, won the contract in June 2021, beating out much larger healthcare companies that had also applied. A call to Pereyra on Friday morning went unanswered.
Amid controversy over the hiring, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo canceled the deal months later. However, county documents obtained by 13 investigations show that the county was still paying nearly $1.4 million for the contract when it wound up.
Hidalgo’s spokesman did not comment, referring questions to the judge’s legal practice. Lawyers there have not yet returned our calls.
A portion of the money paid to Elevate and the equipment purchased with it was returned to Harris County by the contractor.
The county is recovering $207,524 of the $1,425,237 it paid back to Elevate Strategies. The Company reimbursed the county for $177,1813.54 on September 29, 2021 and the remaining $30,342.70 on October 26, 2021.
Invoices and refund checks obtained from 13 investigations show the company reimbursed the county for “50 year-long unlimited data plans for 50 tablets” and “digital ad reservations.”
In November 2021, the Harris County District Attorney requested documents from several county offices investigating how the county selected a vendor for an $11 million vaccines contract.
Thirteen investigative sources confirmed at the time that the offices of the commissioners received summonses requesting documents from January 2021 to November 2021. The broad-based inquiry not only asked about the successful company, but also about other bidders.
Elevate Strategies is a small Houston company and the contract was designed to reach out to unvaccinated people in Harris County to persuade them to get vaccinated.
According to initial reports from the Houston Chronicle, Pereyra assisted Houston’s 2015 mayoral campaign for Adrian Garcia, who is now a Harris County Commissioner for Precinct 2. Garcia previously told the Chronicle he was not involved in the contracting process and was not previously aware of Pereyra’s connection.
When asked about the subpoenas in January, an attorney for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told 13 Investigates, “We have always followed the law and continue to do so.”
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https://abc13.com/harris-county-commissioners-legal-fees-taxpayer-funds-reimbursement-for/11642576/ Rangers Issue Harris County Arrest Warrants as Contract Investigations Intensify