April 20, 2011
JAILERS AND ALLEGED MEMBERS OF RAZA UNIDA GANG CHARGED WITH BRIBERY TO SMUGGLE CELL PHONES INTO DETENTION CENTER
(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) – Three current or former jailers and two men alleged to be members of the “Raza Unida” prison gang have been charged with conspiring to bribe public officials, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
Four of the five charged - Juanita Mendez, 47 of Bishop, Texas; Rowdy Lopez, 30, of Corpus Christi; and Juan Munoz, 18, and Jose Martinez, 26, both of Falfurrias, Texas - were arrested on April 19, 2011. The fifth defendant, Preston Mascorro, 29, formerly of Corpus Christi is in federal custody on other pending charges. The arrests are the result of an investigation initiated last month resulting in the filing under seal of a criminal complaint charging all five defendants on April 14, 2011. The complaint was ordered unsealed today following the court appearance of the four defendants arrested on April 19. All four defendants have been ordered to remain in federal custody without bond pending detention and preliminary examination hearings set for April 22, 2011, at 10:00 a.m. Mascorro is expected to make his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Corpus Christi tomorrow, Thursday, April 21, 2011. The United States will seek his continued detention without bond pending further criminal proceedings.
According to allegations in the criminal complaint, on March 31, 2011, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents and United States Marshals Service (USMS) deputies found Mascorro in possession of a cellular telephone while being housed in Brooks County Detention Center. Mascorro, an alleged “Raza Unida” gang member, is incarcerated there while he awaits trial for federal charges involving violent crimes in aid of racketeering and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine. HSI agents later learned, according to the complaint, that Mendez, a former Nueces County jailer, had smuggled a cell phone into the detention facility at Mascorro’s request and that Jose Martinez, a jailer at the detention center, had allegedly delivered it to him in exchange for $100. Munoz, another jailer at the facility, allegedly brought another cellular phone to Mascorro, at the direction of Lopez, an alleged member of “Raza Unida” prison gang, for which he was paid $250 by Mendez.
The Raza Unida prison gang was formed in the late 1980s in the Texas prison system by Latino inmates and operates inside and outside jail and prison facilities. This gang should not be confused with a political action group by the same name.
The charge of conspiracy to bribe a public official carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment upon conviction, as well as a maximum fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.
The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement-HSI, Customs and Border Protection, USMS, Corpus Christi Police Department - Gang Unit, CCPD - Organized Crime Unit, Kingsville Task Force, Falfurrias Police Department and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Office of Inspector General with the assistance of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mark Patterson and Michael Hess.
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