On March 26, City Hall reporter Josh Baugh got an adrenaline-pumping tip: FBI agents had seized files at the office of Fernando De León, a city official who reviewed permits for real estate development in San Antonio.
The tip sparked a frantic series of phone calls that afternoon as Josh and I tried to figure out what was going on. Authorities said they couldn’t discuss many details — there was still an active investigation, and De León hadn’t been charged with a crime. It was an understandable response, but we had to tell readers what was happening at a city department funded by their tax dollars and permit fees.
Trying to find answers in a story like this is like working on a jigsaw puzzle, only you have to go out and interview people and dig up records to find the missing pieces. And even then, you’re only going to see part of the picture. But after a lot of work, here’s the gist of what we know today:
There’s certainly far more to this story, but it’s a start. If you’re digging into a murky topic like this for a blog or news organization, here are a few tips that can help you find the missing pieces of the puzzle:
These records lead to other people and records — in this case, the name of Rebeca Lopez, who turned out to be De León’s sister. Keep following the bread crumbs and see where the lead.
When De León applied for his engineering license, he listed an address in Laredo. That turned out to be a key piece of information — in another document tied to Rapid Permit Services, that same address was mentioned. A woman named Marcela Alicia Marquez had filed an assumed name certificate with the county to register Rapid Permit Services as a proprietorship, and she listed the address in Laredo:
She could be related to De León — and we might have missed that connection if we hadn’t typed in every address we came across.
Who knows? It could be another piece of the puzzle.
(Photo credit: liza31337)