Berenice Garcia

Berenice Garcia covers Western Hidalgo County and Starr County for The Monitor. She can be reached at or (956) 683-4432.

Mission center resumes meals for seniors

After a brief interruption, meal service at Mission Palm Plaza Development senior center has resumed despite a rejection of the money to fund the service by the Mission Housing Authority board. The service became a point of contention between members of the board when two of them — Connie Garza and Irma Flores Lopez — objected to the service being available to all seniors, not just tenants of the housing authority. “We’re concerned about safety,” Flores Lopez said, adding that they were working on rules regulating how visitors could enter and requiring them to sign in. “But there’s nothing in place to safeguard the confidentiality and privacy of the residents.” Read the full story at

Feds allege La Joya mayor authorized fraudulent purchase

Government prosecutors allege La Joya Mayor “Fito” Salinas authorized the city’s purchase of property from the city’s former city administrator, who on Tuesday pleaded guilty to federal theft related to that transaction. Mike Alaniz, 56, retired as the La Joya city administrator in June in the midst of a federal investigation tied to his sale of property to the city. During his re-arraignment on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, the government alleged that on approximately Aug. 7, 2012, Alaniz attended a property auction on the city’s behalf. Read the full story at

La Joya ex-official pleads guilty to federal theft charge

Mike Alaniz, the former La Joya city administrator, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal theft charge. Alaniz, who retired from the city in June, is accused of stealing, embezzling or fraudulently obtaining property valued at more than $5,000, according to the criminal information. He pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez to the charge, which is based off allegations that Alaniz used his position as the city administrator to have the city of La Joya purchase Lot 112 of Palm Shores Subdivision for $39,500. Read the full story at

Roma band’s illustrious streak ends on technicality

Hopes of advancing to the state marching competition for its 10th consecutive year were dashed Saturday for the Roma High School marching band on a technicality. The band received a Division II rating for its performance at the 77th Annual Pigskin Jubilee marching contest, making the band ineligible to advance to the Area marching contest scheduled this weekend in Weslaco. It’s at Area where bands qualify for the state marching contest. Before getting to Area, bands must receive a Division I rating at Pigskin in order to advance. Read the full story at

La Joya candidates note FBI raid in campaigns

Early voting will begin Monday for the three positions that are up for grabs on the La Joya city commission. Mayor Jose “Fito” Salinas is running for re-election against two challengers — Isidro Casanova, the La Joya police chief from 1999 to about 2004; and Jaime Gaitan, a JROTC instructor. Commissioners Anna Lisa Ruiz and Maria Eugenia “Geny” Salinas opted not to run for re-election for place 2 and place 4, respectively. But six other candidates are waiting in the wings, each vying for one of those two positions. Read the full story at

Starr Co. outsources capital murder cases

Burdened by the cost of a recent capital murder case, Starr County will be partnering with Lubbock County which will represent Starr County’s indigent defendants in capital murder cases. For the defense of Jesus Angel Rebollar, who was convicted on two counts of capital murder earlier this month, the county spent an estimated $200,000 — about $50,000 in attorney’s fees and $150,000 that the county had to deposit in an escrow account. “Capital murders are very expensive,” Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said during Commissioners Court on Tuesday, pointing out the county had two other capital murder cases that are expected to go to trial. Read the full story at

La Joya approves ordinance regulating political signs

Ahead of the November city elections, the La Joya city commissioners approved an ordinance regulating political signs. The new regulations are meant to “alleviate traffic control and maintain an undisruptive election environment at city hall,” according to the ordinance which was approved during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon. Addressing the commissioners, City Administrator Jacqueline Bazan referred to the provision in the Texas Election Code which prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling location. Read the full story at

Child porn suspect turns himself in at Roma port

After nearly six months on the run from law enforcement, a Roma man turned himself in Monday morning on charges related to child pornography. Apolonio Garcia IV, 20, turned himself in at the Roma Port of Entry around 11 a.m. Monday, after which he was turned over to the Starr County Special Crimes Unit, according to Brenda Lee, law enforcement liaison for the Starr County Attorney’s Office. Garcia is charged with two counts of possession or promotion of child pornography. Read more at The

Rio Grande City school board terminates attorney

RIO GRANDE CITY — The school board here swiftly terminated its attorney Monday after being the focus of a raucous board meeting last week. In a 4 to 3 vote, Baltazar Salazar, who was hired for the job over the summer, was ousted as the school board’s attorney during a special board meeting held Monday afternoon. Salazar’s termination was previously taken up during a board meeting last week but only board trustee Daria Babineaux voted in favor of it following much arguing among members of the board, Salazar and Superintendent Vilma Garza. This time, trustee Leticia O. Lopez made the motion to terminate, which was seconded by board President Eleazar Velasquez.. Read more at The

Bond conditions prevent Zamora’s release in healthcare fraud case

More than 60 days after a federal judge granted her release, Meisy Zamora remains in custody after facing difficulty in meeting the conditions of her release. Zamora is facing charges of healthcare fraud for her alleged participation in a scheme to defraud health insurers by misdiagnosing and over-treating patients. Her husband, Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada, and two of their employees, were also charged for their alleged role in the scheme. Zamora, who earned a medical degree in Mexico, worked in her husband’s clinic and is accused of pressuring employees to keep the clinic filled with patients and to alter medical records. Read the full story at