A fourth former employee of the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges last week.
Domingo Gonzalez Hernandez, 25, of Mercedes, appeared for a rearraignment hearing Friday, where he changed his plea to guilty to one count of bribery of a public official after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend lowering the offense by two levels on the federal sentencing guidelines, a copy of the plea agreement indicated.
The government says that, between September 2016 and July 28, 2018, Hernandez accepted cash, a gift card and a Chevrolet pickup truck in exchange for smuggling contraband into the federal prison and distributing it to inmates. At the time, Hernandez worked as a correctional officer at the facility.
He has now become the fourth former prison staffer to plead guilty to various charges after a total of seven men and women were arrested in recent months.
Most recently, 48-year-old Weslaco resident Brenda Alicia Fuentes on Tuesday pleaded guilty to sex abuse of an inmate. Fuentes admitted she carried out a sexual relationship with a detainee, performing oral sex on him on several occasions while she worked as a cook supervisor in the prison commissary.
And in early March, two other men pleaded guilty to bribery: Jayson Catalan, 37, of Mercedes, and Jhaziel Loredo, 32, of Progreso.
Catalan, too, worked in the commissary and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling food into the prison. Loredo served as a correctional officer, and pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in exchange for smuggling marijuana and Xanax into the facility.
Three other former staffers still face charges, including Fuentes’ daughter, 21-year-old Amber Marie Estrada, who was the last to be arrested in mid-March.
Estrada is accused of accepting bribes — including a horse — in exchange for bringing contraband into the facility where she worked as a correctional officer. She is set to appear in court July 6.
Two other defendants who had been scheduled to appear on Tuesday have instead seen their final pretrial conferences pushed back to Aug. 3. They are Erasmo Eduardo Loya, of Edcouch, and Veronica Ortega, of McAllen.
Loya, a former correctional officer, is accused of smuggling food and marijuana into the prison in exchange for money, while Ortega is accused of smuggling in marijuana in exchange for money. Ortega worked as a certified medical assistant, according to the indictment against her.