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Press Release

RGV attorney admits to detainee list bribery scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A 40-year-old Weslaco attorney has entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery of a public official, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Roel Alaniz admitted he paid immigration detention employees for “alien detainee roster lists.” The lists were provided to him or his sister - Cynthia Alanis - who is also an attorney in the Rio Grande Valley.

The detainee lists were from the EL Valle Detention Center-Raymondville and the Port Isabel Detention Center-Los Fresnos. They contained names, dates of birth, country of origin and A-numbers of alien detainees. The attorneys would then visit them, or instruct others to do so, in order to solicit them to hire his law firm for representation in immigration proceedings.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez accepted the plea and set sentencing for Aug. 2. At that time, Roel Alaniz faces up to 15 years in federal prison for the bribery conviction and up to five for the conspiracy. Both convictions also carry a maximum $250,000 fine.

He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

Benito Barrientez, 43, Lyford, and Damian Ortiz, 31, Weslaco, were two employees of the Willacy County Regional Detention Center who sold the lists to Roel Alaniz. They also pleaded to conspiracy and bribery of a public official. They are set for sentencing May 11 before U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera Jr.

Cynthia Alaniz, 28, Weslaco, pleaded guilty to making a false statement in a bribery investigation and is set for sentencing May 5.

Barrientez, Ortiz and Cynthia Alaniz were also permitted to remain on bond.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Office of Internal Affairs conducted the investigation with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security-Office of the Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations-Harlingen. Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar Ponce is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 27, 2021

Public Corruption