CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Daniel Esparza, for failure to appear at a docket call in the 347th District Court Thursday morning.
Judge Missy Medary gave Esparza until noon to appear, and when he did not, a bench warrant was issued in that case.
Esparza was charged with possession of a controlled substance, which is scheduled for a jury trial Monday.
As KRIS 6 News has previously reported, Esparza has been running a grant program that is supposed to provide finanical aid to those seeking a home repair or renovation and Covid-19 relief.
Esparza, who also goes by the name Daniel Saenz, told KRIS 6 News he would refund application fees, however, several people have reached out to KRIS 6 News saying they have not yet received a refund.
“We’ve got so many people right now that have already gotten refunds," said Daniel Esparza in a phone interview. "And, we have a lot of our clients are still applying for refunds.”
In late September, people came to us with a suspicion that grants they applied for from 361 Grants may not be real.
“It’s not only one person for $150. It’s a lot of human beings that really believed in something for once. And now, what is true out there now?” said a Robstown resident who applied for a grant.
This includes a group in Robstown. They've asked us to keep their identity anonymous in fear of retaliation.
On top of that, Robstown Police Department has confirmed with us that 15 complaints have been reported to them. They are preparing to take them to the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office.
“There’s families that went without paying certain bills to apply for these grants and now someone needs to speak up for all these families,” a Mathis resident said.
We spoke to a similar group in Mathis who also feel they are victims.
Esparza explained to me how things work. He uses a grant website like this, anyone can access it. He acts as the middle man to connect applicants with grant writers for the grant. That’s why he charges the $150 fee.
Having caution, some people said they wanted a refund. Some said the number they had for him was disconnected. Others said the emails they sent were never answered.
“I think I’ve called so many times even the number has been omitted," the Robstown resident said. "I don’t know if this person is his partner, but won’t even answer the number she gave me.”
Both the Robstown and Mathis residents said they also couldn't contact the associates who collected applicants' payments and personal information.
Esparza disputed their claims.
“I've contacted everyone on our list, asked them if they have any concerns, they have the same concerns, I addressed them and told them where we were going from there. And, asked them if they want to proceed or do you want a refund,” said Esparza.
The Robstown resident said they haven't had contact with Esparza since December. The Mathis resident said she emailed him for a refund in October and he never responded.
Esparza tells me he has a new phone number and email address which I’ve relayed to these applicants.
However, many individuals have received a letter that states they’ve been awarded a grant. The date the money was to come, has come and gone with no money to be seen.
Esparza said that’s because there is no guarantee from those letters.
“Isn’t there something that stands out to you and says oh you might get this award or you might get this money because it does say on there, like everything else, it all depends on available funding,” he said.
These letters are also signed by Executive Directors Edward Turnbull and Todd Hunter. Esparza said Turnbull is his son. He did not specify who Todd Hunter is, but we know it’s not State Rep. Todd Hunter.
The Robstown and Mathis residents said they feel cheated, especially since they talked their friends and families into applying for grants.
“I made that grand mistake, I regret. I actually went and told some workers, that they also needed help,” said the Robstown Resident.
“Ballpark, how many people you know applied?”
“I would say pretty close to 300 people,” The Mathis resident said.
“You know about 300 people in Mathis that have applied?”
Esparza could not tell me how many people have applied or been refunded. He did say that he’s financially helped 205 people for a separate program from 361 Grants.
“If he was man enough to do that, he could be man enough to pay back the people because there are some people that need the money,” another Mathis resident said.
If you are a 361 Grant applicant and need to contact Daniel Esparza you can do so at 361-301-6692, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.