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Transnational Gangs
04/21/2011

3 jailers and 2 alleged "Raza Unida" gang members charged with bribery and smuggling cell phones into a detention center

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Three current or former jailers, and two men alleged to be members of the "Raza Unida" prison gang, were charged on Wednesday with conspiring to bribe public officials, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno. 

The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD) Gang and Organized Crime Units, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Office of the Inspector General. 

Following are 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 April 19. The fifth defendant, Preston Mascorro, 29, formerly of Corpus Christi, is in federal custody on other pending charges.

The arrests resulted from an investigation initiated last month and a criminal complaint filed under seal charging all five defendants on April 14. The complaint was ordered unsealed April 21 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.  Mascorro is expected to make his initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Corpus Christi on Friday, Thursday, April 21. The United States will seek his continued detention without bond pending further criminal proceedings.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint, on March 31, ICE HSI agents and U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) deputies found Mascorro with a cellular telephone while he was an inmate housed in Brooks County Detention Center.  Mascorro, an alleged "Raza Unida" gang member, is awaiting trial for federal charges involving violent crimes in support of racketeering, and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  ICE 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.  The agents also determined that Jose Martinez, a jailer at the detention center, had allegedly delivered the cell phone to Mascorro 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 resulted from an investigation conducted by the following agencies:  ICE HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Marshals Service, CCPD's Gang and Organized Crime Unit, Kingsville Task Force, Falfurrias Police Department, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Office of Inspector General with the assistance of the Brooks County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Patterson and Michael Hess, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

A complaint is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.