Immigration attorney admonished at motions hearing

BROWNSVILLE — An immigration attorney charged with paying bribes to detention center employees in exchange for detainee rosters at the Port Isabel and El Valle detention centers appeared Tuesday in federal court in Brownsville for a motions hearing.

Roel Alanis, 39, appeared briefly before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan, who signed a motion to continue the case, currently set to go to trial on April 6. Alanis remained out on bond.

Morgan issued a warning to Alanis, whose sister and former Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Nalleli Alanis, 27, was arrested by federal authorities Monday morning in connection to the scheme, according to a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

“If you fail to appear anywhere as directed, your trouble is going to go from bad to worse,” the judge told Alanis on Tuesday.

Cynthia Alanis’ indictment remained under seal.

The release from U.S. Attorney’s office stated, “The indictment against Cynthia Alanis alleges she falsely stated she did not receive nor know of any alien detainee roster lists given to the Alanis law firm. However, the charges allege she had previously received detainee roster lists and also knew of such lists given to the law firm.”

Roel Alanis was charged in a seven-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury on July 23. A bribery investigation resulted in a separate case charging ex-detention facility employees Benito Barrientez, 42, Lyford; Exy Adelaida Gomez, 42, Los Fresnos; and Damian Ortiz, 30, Welasco with accepting payments from Alanis in exchange for the lists.

According to the indictment, the three obtained detainee roster lists from the facilities, then provided the lists, which contained detailed personal information such as A-numbers, names, dates of birth, and countries of origin, to Alanis.

The charges in the indictment against Alanis implicated him in the scheme between Feb. 10, 2018 and Feb. 6, 2019.

Prosecutors wrote that Alanis would then visit the detainees for the purpose of representing them through his law firm and that he would instruct his sister or others to do so.

Barrientez and Ortiz were employees of the Willacy County Regional Detention Center in Raymondville and have pleaded guilty. They are set for sentencing on April 29, according to the release.