Update: A former Hidalgo County assistant district attorney is free on a $50,000 bond a day after she pleaded not guilty to making a false statement to federal agents in connection with a federal bribery case. The charge against Cynthia Alanis alleges she made false statements to federal authorities. The indictment remains sealed.
Texas Border Business
BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A McAllen woman has been taken into custody following the return of an indictment alleging she made a false statement to authorities in a bribery investigation involving alien detainee roster lists, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
The grand jury returned the indictment under seal Feb. 18 against Cynthia Alanis, 27. She was expected to make her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya III at 2 p.m. today.
The charge stems from a bribery investigation involving Benito Barrientez, 42, Lyford; Exy Adelaida Gomez, 42, Los Fresnos; and Damian Ortiz, 30, and her brother – McAllen attorney Roel Alanis, 39, both of Weslaco. They were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery in relation to obtaining alien detainee roster lists.
The indictment against Cynthia Alanis alleges she falsely stated she did not receive nor know of any alien detainee roster lists given to the Alanis law firm. However, the charges allege she had previously received detainee roster lists and also knew of such lists given to the law firm.
Barrientez and Ortiz were employed at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center as a classification clerk and a senior program director, respectively. Gomez was a corrections officer at the El Valle Detention Center. Both facilities are located in Raymondville.
The indictment alleges Barrientez, Ortiz and Gomez obtained alien detainee roster lists from the El Valle Detention Center and the Port Isabel Detention Center-Los Fresnos while employed in their respective capacities.
The lists were then allegedly provided to Roel Alanis, an attorney with a practice in the Rio Grande Valley. Roel Alanis then allegedly paid money to the employees in return for receiving the lists which contained names, dates of birth, country of origin and A-numbers of alien detainees. The charges allege Roel Alanis would visit the illegal aliens for the purpose of hiring his law firm as their attorney in immigration proceedings. Alternatively, he would instruct his sister or others to do so, according to the charges.
If convicted, Cynthia Alanis faces up to five years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Barrientez and Ortiz have pleaded guilty and are set for sentencing April 29.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigation with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security – Office of the Inspector General and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar Ponce is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.