Defendant in sex trafficking case certified as minor at time of alleged crimes

One of the defendants in a human trafficking case was certified as a minor during a hearing Thursday.

Genaro Fuentes was certified by the court as having been a minor at the time of his alleged crimes, some of which were allegedly committed in 1999, when he was 16 years old.

Fuentes, now 36, pleaded not guilty in August to two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child related to a Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission’s investigation into a rural Mission bar owned by Fuentes’ mother, Rita Martinez Moreno.

In recent hearings, the state, represented by Hidalgo County Special Victims Division Chief Hope Palacios, stated the allegations against the group stems from a human trafficking investigation pursued by TABC.

One of the alleged victims in this case was among multiple minors being held at Martinez’s bar, where Fuentes worked, Palacios said.

According to public records, Martinez had a liquor license at a business called “Rita’s Sports Bar,” located in the 7700 W. Mile 7 Road in rural Mission, the same address Martinez is listed as her home address in court records.

The license expired in June 2018, according to a public record of the business.

Like his mother, Fuentes is accused of sexually assaulting a minor, Kenia Garcia, a pseudonym used in the indictment for the one of the victims — once in November 1999 and again in December of the same year.

Attorney for Fuentes, Christopher Cavazos, who represented Fuentes for the certification hearing only, was present for the hearing along with Fuentes’ other attorney, Robert M. Capello, who is representing Fuentes in the case.

For his part, Cavazos stated he had no evidence to present during the hearing; instead on behalf of Fuentes confirmed the waiving of several petitions.

The state presented and submitted Fuentes’ school records, juvenile criminal records, documents related to prior criminal charges, and his birth certificate, which confirms Fuentes was 16 years old at the time of the alleged crimes.

Along with the mother-son pair, two other suspects, Juan Angel Barrientos, and Mariano Vera Vega, are charged with varying sexual assault of a child offenses.

With the exception of Barrientos, a currently suspended Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, the defendants remain in custody on varying bonds.

Barrientos was due in court last week but his hearing was reset, the same outcome of Martinez’s and Vera’s hearings.

“(Barrientos), on the first day of December 2001, did then and there intentionally and knowingly cause the penetration of the sexual organ of Kenia Garcia, a pseudonym, a child who was then and there younger than 17 years of age,” the record shows.

He’s accused of then sexually assaulting Kenia Garcia on two subsequent occasions — on or about Jan. 1 and Feb. 1, 2002.

Barrientos is a longtime lawman, who began his career more than 20 years ago in 1996 with the San Benito Police Department, until early 1998, when he moved to Edinburg and became a police officer with the Edinburg Police Department beginning in May 1998.

The 48-year-old man worked as a police officer in Edinburg until about October 2002, according to public Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records. The allegations against the trooper took place during his time as a police officer in Edinburg.

TCOLE records show Barrientos has been a trooper with DPS since April 2003.

According to a DPS spokesman, Barrientos was placed on suspension shortly after his arrest, but would not comment further on whether he was on paid or unpaid suspension.

The attorneys in the respective cases, Hector Hernandez Jr., who represents Martinez, and Melisandre Mendez, who represents Vera, have each stated that they are reviewing a voluminous amount of case discovery provided by the state.

Fuentes, who also had his bond reduced to $75,000 on the aggravated sexual assault of charge, is due back in court in December.