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El Paso City Council candidate accused of writing thousands in bad checks for his campaign

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An El Paso City Council candidate has been funding his campaign with thousands of dollars worth of bounced checks and wage theft, according to several police reports filed in recent weeks.

Shawnson Nixon, 21, has been accused in at least eight police reports, according to documents obtained by El Paso Matters under the Texas Public Information Act. A police spokesman said detectives are investigating “cases that are along a similar course of conduct and not issuance of bad check alone,” but he declined to identify a suspect.

Shawn Nixon, as he’s listed on the ballot, is one of five candidates running for the District 4 seat on El Paso City Council. He blamed a campaign worker for issuing the bad checks without his knowledge. “I didn’t have no knowledge of any of this taking place,” Nixon told El Paso Matters. 

However, several of the people who filed police reports told El Paso Matters that the checks came directly from Nixon and they repeatedly asked him for payment.

The eight complaints received by El Paso police, filed in August and September, list more than $31,000 in bounced checks and wage theft accusations against Nixon. In an interview with El Paso Matters, Nixon said his campaign had only raised about $1,200.

Salvador Espinoza said Nixon hired his cleaning company, West Star Cleaning Service, in June for work at a Northeast El Paso home he had converted into a campaign office. Nixon’s campaign wrote him 13 bad checks totalling $10,470, Espinoza said.

He said Nixon made excuses when the first four payments bounced.

“I talked to him and I said, listen, these payments were rejected. And he told me, well, you know what, I don’t know what’s going on because my finance manager, she left, so I got to look into this and this and that,” Espinoza said.

Salvador Espinoza provided images of a check written by Shawn Nixon’s campaign to his cleaning service, and his bank notice that the check bounced.

Nixon then bounced the payments again, Espinoza said. He then submitted five more bad checks before Espinoza went to the police on Aug. 26. 

Espinoza said he paid for materials and his employees’ wages out of his own pocket because of the bounced checks.

He has owned his company for six years and hasn’t had this experience before. “I’ve never had anybody not pay. It’s kind of tough because you got scammed really bad.”


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Richard Schoen Jr. filed a police report on Aug. 15 saying Nixon’s campaign had bounced $9,802 worth of checks for graphic art services.

“I did a bunch of banners, bunch of yard signs, vehicle magnets. I did him business cards and other miscellaneous printing things,” Schoen said in an interview with El Paso Matters.

He said when he notified Nixon that a check had bounced, he gave him another check from a different bank that also bounced.

Lizet Gonzales was hired by Nixon as his campaign finance director at the end of June. She provided El Paso Matters with a copy of an employment contract that called for her to be paid $14 an hour. 

She said she learned of the job through the mother of a friend from high school. She had no prior experience in political campaigns. Nixon allowed Gonzales to hire her sister as an assistant. They lasted just over a week in the job and never got paid, she said.  

Gonzales said Nixon never gave her access to the campaign bank accounts, even though he hired her as finance director.

“One of the days that we were supposed to go to change all the information in the banks over to my name and add me on the account and all of that stuff, we were going to meet the Obamas because Michelle Obama was coming to give him a grant and we’re going to have dinner with them,” Gonzales said.

She and her sister filed police reports alleging theft of service of just over $500 for their unpaid labor.

Nixon denied the wage theft allegations. “I have a lot of people that are stating that I had hired them. I didn’t hire them. They were my volunteers,” he said. 

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Robert Moore

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986. His work has received a number of top journalism honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Pulitzer Prize finalist and the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award. Moore’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, ProPublica, National Public Radio, The Guardian and other publications. He has been featured as an expert on border issues by CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBC and PBS.

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