Defense attorney: Evidence may be missing in South Tex Beauty Supply money laundering case 

In this July 9, 2013 file photo, South Tex Beauty Supply can be seen in downtown McAllen. (Monitor photo)

A defense attorney representing one of the suspects in the South Tex Beauty Supply money laundering case is demanding the government hand over phones used by agents and cooperating sources in the investigation tied to the business.

But it’s unclear whether the government knows where those phones are, according to the lawyer.

Defense attorney Heriberto Medrano has filed a motion to compel the government to produce the phones or to produce the agents who disposed of the phones to testify.

Medrano, who represents Maria Estela Suprise, sought answers at a hearing scheduled for Thursday, but because of questions regarding the phones’ location, U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa canceled the hearing until further notice, court records indicate.

Maria was charged along with her daughter, Daisy Yannette Suprise, as well as Francisco Dominguez-Bermudez and Yolanda Peña for allegedly laundering money.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutors allege the suspects laundered drug money though South Tex Beauty Supply and arrested them following a two-year federal investigation.

The complaint against them all indicates undercover agents were used to build the case, and that document includes numerous Whatsapp messages between suspects and the undercover.

That’s why the defense attorneys want to review the evidence on those phones, as they are entitled to do so by federal law.

In a Sept. 21 email to federal prosecutor Pat Profit, Medrano demands that the government produce the phones.

“Pursuant to FRCP 16(a)(E), by the email I’m requesting that you produce for our inspection and copying, the various telephones used by any government agents, cooperating sources or any individual who participated in the criminal investigation – used to send text messages, images, voicemails and/or emails between them and any co-defendants or other persons related to this case,” Medrano wrote. “The Court has repeatedly ORDERED you to produce the phones used to generate the text messages and ‘missing media’ entries cited in Defense Exhibit 1 at these status hearings before Judge Hinojosa. To this date – you have NOT done so.”

Medrano then writes that if Profit’s response is that the government no longer has the phones, he wants all the agents or persons who used those phones and/or disposed of the phones and text messages, images, recordings or emails to be called to testify.

“There is a standing BRADY Order that you must comply with and your refusal to present the people responsible at Thursday’s hearing before Judge Hinojosa, for the disappearance of these phones used to gather information/evidence in your criminal investigation that resulted in these criminal charges is a breach of BRADY,” Medrano wrote.

The Brady Rule requires the government to turn over materially exculpatory evidence over to suspects accused of a crime.

“Let me be clear, I don’t want your hearsay statements to the court about what happened to these phones. I want to present testimony under oath from the persons with firsthand knowledge about what happened to these phones and the evidence contained in them and create a record of same for trial and perhaps for appeal,” Medrano told Profit.

The motion to compel says that in previous responses to his requests, Profit said she was looking into it.

In a three-sentence response to Medrano, Profit tells the attorney she believes he is misrepresenting the court’s position.

“Mr. Medrano, Mr. Duarte already made a nicely worded request for this information. As I told him, I am working on it. Furthermore, I believe you are misrepresenting the Court’s position,” Profit wrote.

Profit is referring to Demetrio Duarte Jr., who represents Daisy.

The government has not filed a response to Medrano’s motion to compel as of deadline and a date for the next hearing has not been set.