- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) - An ex-utility department clerk in South Texas must serve nearly two years in prison for embezzling about $34,000 in water payments and arranging free service for a relative.

Ernesto Valdez Jr. was sentenced Monday in federal court in Del Rio and ordered to repay the money.

Valdez, who formerly worked in Del Rio’s utility department, pleaded guilty in 2013 to theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

Investigators say Valdez, between 2007 and 2010, pocketed about $17,000 in cash payments made by utility customers. Prosecutors say Valdez also manipulated the billing account of a relative - adding up to nearly $17,000 in free water services for his family member.

He must serve 21 months behind bars.

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