La Villa detention center employees under federal indictment

Special to The Crier Shown is the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa.

Five employees of the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa are facing federal charges ranging from bribery to the sexual abuse of inmates. The charges came to light after indictments against the five men and women were unsealed last Friday.

Four of the staffers are each facing a single charge of bribery of public officials and witnesses, while the fifth has been charged with one count of sex abuse of an adult ward in custody. All five made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis Friday morning and were remanded to custody pending a bond and detention hearing slated for 2 p.m. on Nov. 27, court records show.

According to the five separate indictments, the allegations stretch from as far back as November 2016 to as recently as August of this year.

Erasmo Loya, who worked as a correctional officer, is accused of bribery between November 2016 and June 22, 2019. Loya allegedly accepted money “to bring contraband into the facility” and distribute it to federal inmates, court records show.

The indictments against the other three defendants accused of bribery read the same: correctional officer Jhaziel Loredo is accused of accepting bribes from October 2018 to Aug. 8 of this year; commissary officer Jayson Catalan is accused of accepting bribes from January through the end of July 2019; and Veronica Ortega, a certified medical assistant, is accused of accepting bribes from April to May 19 of this year.

The fifth indictment — against cooksupervisorBrendaFuentes— alleges that she engaged in sexual contact with a federal inmate between July 30 and Aug. 8, 2018.

During their initial appearances Friday, Fuentes, Ortega, Loredo and Catalan each requested a public defender. Loya indicated he would retain his own defense attorney.

If found guilty of the felony charges, the five defendants could each face up to 15 years in federal prison, up to a $250,000 fine and up to three years of supervised release, court records show.

Owned by private prison company the GEO Group, the 1,300-bed East Hidalgo Detention Center operates under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service to house federal detainees, as well as thoseinthecustodyofImmigration and Customs Enforcement. The center also provides transportation of inmates to and from the federal courthouse, according to the GEO Group’s website.