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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Immigration Detention Center Employees Indicted for Bribery

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment against three local residents for selling alien detainee roster lists in exchange for cash,  announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

The five-count indictment was returned under seal May 28. Today, law enforcement took Benito Barrientez, 42, of Lyford; Damian Ortiz, 30, of Weslaco; and Exy Adelaida Gomez, 42, of Los Fresnos, into custody. They are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan at 10 a.m. tomorrow.  

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 three are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery. 

The indictment alleges Barrientes, 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 contained the names, dates of birth, country of origin and other information of alien detainees, according to the charges. The three defendants allegedly then provided the lists to a local attorney in exchange for money. The indictment alleges the attorney would then use that information to attempt to solicit the detainees to hire his firm in immigration proceedings.

If convicted, the three employees defendant face up to 15 years in federal prison for the bribery charges and up to five years for the conspiracy. Each charge also carries a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Professional Responsibility conducted the investigation along with Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement’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 and until convicted through due process of law.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Component(s): 
Updated May 29, 2019