Alanis

A former Hidalgo County assistant district attorney pleaded guilty this week to lying to federal authorities, court records show.

Cynthia Nalleli Alanis, 28, a former Hidalgo County assistant district attorney, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of lying to federal agents in connection with a federal bribery investigation into her brother, Roel Alanis.

Alanis was arrested last year in February as part of an investigation into Roel Alanis, a Weslaco-based attorney who was indicted in July 2019 on seven counts of bribery related to a purported scheme to pay cash to detention officers and other employees at a prison in exchange for detainee information, including the designated numbers of immigrant detainees.

Cynthia Alanis was terminated from the district attorney’s office upon news of her arrest in late February 2020.

According to public records, Alanis, who graduated from St. Mary’s University in May 2018, began working with the DA’s office beginning in November 2018.

A grand jury returned a seven-count indictment in July 2018 accusing Roel Alanis of conspiracy and bribery involving former immigration detention employees, the USAO announced in a news release at the time of the arrest.

In May 2018, authorities arrested Benito Barrientez, 42, of Lyford, Damian Ortiz, 30, of Weslaco, and Exy Adelaida Gomez, 42, of Los Fresnos.

Roel Alanis, 40, allegedly paid Ortiz for the lists of immigration detainees, who he would try to convince to hire his law firm in their immigration proceedings. Ortiz is accused of obtaining the lists from Barrientez, who paid Gomez for lists obtained from the Port Isabel Detention Center and El Valle Detention Center.

Barrientez and Ortiz worked at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center while Gomez worked at the El Valle Detention Center — facilities located in Raymondville.

Roel Alanis is described as “Person A” in the indictment against the former detention officers. That charging document only specifies exchanges of cash between Jan. 4 and Jan. 31.

The indictment against the former detention officers, however, alleges that on Jan. 4 Barrientez called Gomez and asked her for a list of detainees from the El Valle Detention Center to give to Roel Alanis for $300, though the payment was then increased to $500.

Federal prosecutors say Gomez met Barrientez in a parking lot in Harlingen and was paid $500 to provide the documents.

The indictment alleges that Barrientez then gave the list to Ortiz, who delivered it to another person in Weslaco, who paid Ortiz $350.

The indictment against the former detention officers details several more instances throughout January in which federal prosecutors accuse Ortiz of paying Barrientez, who then paid Gomez, for the lists, which Ortiz then gave to Roel Alanis for cash payments ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Barrientez, Ortiz, and Gomez, who pleaded guilty to their respective bribery charges in February 2020, are set for sentencing in early May, records show.

A grand jury handed down an indictment under seal Feb. 18, 2020, alleging that Cynthia Alanis lied to federal agents when she was questioned about her brother’s case, the document stated.

The indictment states Cynthia Alanis lied to a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Feb. 21, 2019, when she said she did not receive nor know about any “alien detainee roster lists” given to the Alanis law firm.

Court records allege Roel Alanis instructed his sister Cynthia Alanis, and “others,” to visit the detainees for the purpose of hiring his law firm as their attorney in immigration proceedings.

Roel Alanis is scheduled for another hearing in late March, according to court notes.

Cynthia Alanis, who faces up to five years in prison if convicted, is due back before a federal district judge in May for sentencing, records show.

According to the State Bar of Texas’ website, both Roel and Cynthia Alanis are still eligible to practice law in the state.


lzazueta@themonitor.com