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Transnational Gangs
09/14/2011

Jail officials and alleged 'Raza Unida' gang member sentenced for bribery

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two former jail officials and one alleged member of the "Raza Unida" prison gang have been sentenced to prison for conspiring to bribe public officials, announced United States Attorney José Angel Moreno on Wednesday.

The investigation leading to all the charges was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); Corpus Christi Police Department, Gang Unit; Corpus Christi Police Department, Organized Crime Unit; Kingsville Task Force; Falfurrias Police Department; and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Office of Inspector General. The Brooks County Sheriff's Office also assisted.

Jose Martinez, 26, and Juan Munoz, 18, both of Falfurrias, Texas, and former guards at the Brooks County Correctional Facility, along with Rowdy Lopez, 30 of Corpus Christi, an alleged "Raza Unida" gang member, were sentenced to prison on Sept. 14 by U.S. District Judge Hayden Head.

Martinez and Munoz were sentenced to 24 and 16 months in federal prison, respectively, while Lopez was sentenced to a 48-month prison term. All three have also been ordered to serve three-year terms of supervised release following their release from prison. The fourth defendant convicted in this case, former Nueces County jail official Juanita Mendez, will be sentenced in October 2011. All four defendants pleaded guilty in late June to conspiring to commit bribery.

The convictions are the result of an investigation which culminated in the filing of criminal charges on April 14, following an investigation by ICE HSI agents and USMS deputies. According to court records, on March 31, ICE HSI agents and USMS deputies found a Brooks County Detention Center detainee in possession of a cellular telephone. The detainee, Preston Mascorro, an alleged "Raza Unida" gang member, was in custody awaiting trial for federal charges involving violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR) and conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

ICE HSI agents later learned, according to the record of the case, that Mendez, a former Nueces County jail official, had smuggled a cell phone into the detention facility at Mascorro's request. Martinez, a jail official at the detention center, had delivered the cell phone to Mascorro in exchange for $100. Munoz, another jail official at the facility, brought another cellular phone to Mascorro at the direction of alleged "Raza Unida" gang member Rowdy Lopez in exchange for $250 paid by Mendez. Mascorro remains in federal custody pending trial in November for VICAR and other charges. 

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.

Mascorro is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Assistant U.S. Attorney's Mark Patterson and Michael Hess, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.