Former ADA on bond after pleading not guilty

A former Hidalgo County assistant district attorney is free on a $50,000 bond a day after she pleaded not guilty to making a false statement to federal agents in connection with a federal bribery case.

Late Monday afternoon, Cynthia Nalleli Alanis posted a $50,000 bond after she pleaded not guilty to one count of making a false statement to federal authorities in connection with a bribery case allegedly involving her older brother, 39-year-old Roel Alanis.

Cynthia Alanis, 27, was terminated Monday morning shortly after her now-former employer, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez was informed of her arrest on federal charges.

Rodriguez assured the public in a prepared statement that he was told the allegations against Cynthia Alanis are not related to her work as a misdemeanor district attorney in the DA’s office.

Rodriguez also said his office would not comment further on Alanis’ arrest.

A native of Weslaco and a 2011 Weslaco High graduate, Cynthia Alanis earned her law degree from St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio in the spring of 2018, public records show. She began working for the DA’s office beginning in November 2018.

The charge against Cynthia Alanis alleges she made false statements to federal authorities, but the details are unclear as the indictment remains sealed.

Cynthia Alanis’ brother, Roel Alanis, was arrested in late July 2019 after he was named in a seven-count indictment alleging that between February 2018 through February 2019, he bribed immigration detention officers with cash for lists of detainees in an effort to solicit them for legal services.

The immigration detention officers, Benito Barrientez, 42, of Lyford, Damian Ortiz, 30, of Weslaco, and Exy Adelaida Gomez, 42, of Los Fresnos, were arrested in May 2018, months before the indictment against Roel Alanis was handed down.

The indictment against the former detention officers details instances throughout January 2019 in which federal prosecutors accuse Ortiz of paying Barrientez, who then paid Gomez, for the lists, which Ortiz then gave to Roel Alanis for cash payments ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Barrientez and Ortiz worked at the Willacy County Regional Detention Center while Gomez worked at the El Valle Detention Center — facilities located in Raymondville.

Roel Alanis is described as “Person A” in the indictment against the former detention officers. That charging document only specifies exchanges of cash between Jan. 4, 2019 and Jan. 31, 2019.

The indictment against the former detention officers, however, alleges that on Jan. 4 Barrientez called Gomez and asked her for a list of detainees from the El Valle Detention Center to give to Roel Alanis for $300, though the payment was then increased to $500.

Federal prosecutors say Gomez met Barrientez in a parking lot in Harlingen and was paid $500 to provide the documents.

The indictment alleges that Barrientez then gave the list to Ortiz, who delivered it to another person in Weslaco, who paid Ortiz $350.

A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas states that Roel Alanis allegedly instructed his sister Cynthia Alanis, and “others,” to visit the detainees for the purpose of hiring his law firm as their attorney in immigration proceedings.

Cynthia Alanis, who faces up to five years in prison if convicted, is due back before a U.S. district judge in March, then April 13, for jury selection, record show.