Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
County attorney resigns in embezzlement probe
By ROSIE FLORES
Reeves County Attorney Luis Carrasco resigned his position on Friday, a day after investigators raided his Pecos office as part of an investigation into missing funds.
“The case is still under investigation,” said Captain Barry Cavers of the Texas Rangers, who along with Department of Public Safety troopers and Reeves County sheriff’s deputies were involved in the Thursday afternoon search.
Cavers said that they had obtained a search warrant for Carrasco’s office in the 100 block of West Fifth Street. The street around the office was sealed off, and a number of documents were removed from the building.
Cavers said that the embezzlement allegations originally were reported to the Pecos Police Department who in turn, handed it to 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds’ office.
“The DA’s office then contacted us and send us the information so that we could proceed with the case,” said Cavers.
Cavers said that they are going through all of Carrasco’s files and that so far they have found about $30,000 in missing funds.
“These funds are just from the county, we still have to go through his personal accounts,” said Cavers. “He also had a private practice and there seems to be funds missing from some of his clients,” he said.
“Apparently, this kind of problem has been going on for quite some time,” said Cavers. “We were inundated with people coming to us, thanking us for being there, stating that it’s long overdue,” he said.
Cavers said that they also received information regarding his civil practice and there is supposed to be funds missing there as well.
“Some of the clients tired to contact him, to collect money that they were owed as a result of a settlement or lawsuit,” said Caver. “At this point, we could not find any money…all of the accounts have been drained of this kind of money,” he said.
Caver said that they are still in the investigative stage, but think Carrasco may have used the funds for personal use.
Carrasco was unavailable for comment following his resignation.
Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said the attorney’s files were taken from his office to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center by DPS troopers, following the warrant search.
“We have some files the Rangers released to us that we’re keeping as evidence,” McKinney said. “They didn’t have a place that could hold the quantity of files taken in the search, and they asked us if we could keep them.”
The police chief added that while his department is keeping the records, they are not involved in the investigation.
Caver said that the records are a lot of paper work and that it will take time to sift through everything.
“Hopefully, we can conclude this investigation in a month,” said Caver. “We’ll go through all the records and once we do, we’ll present the case to the grand jury,” he said.
Caver said that Carrasco has not been arrested and has not been charged with any violations.
“We are still in the investigation part,” said Caver.
In the meantime, since Carrasco did turn in his resignation on Friday, Reeves County Commissioners are moving to schedule a meeting to accept the resignation and to appoint his successor.
Carrasco was first elected to the county attorney’s position in 2000, and still has three years to go in his term of office after running unopposed for re-election last year.
Commissioners want to accept his resignation to seize payroll payment, because they cannot officially seize his payroll until his successor has been appointed.
The county attorney’s unexpired two-year term will be placed on the election ballot in the March primaries and on the November general election ballot. Between now and the end of 2006, if a case comes up a county attorney pro-tem will be appointed to serve as prosecutor in the case.
Commissioners plan to meet Tuesday, a time has not been set yet for that meeting in which, Carrasco’s resignation will be officially accepted and a successor appointed.
The Texas Rangers are urging anyone with additional information, to contact them at their Midland office, at 432-498-2120.
Gomez becomes first entry for county judge’s position
By SMOKEY BRIGGS
Pecos businessman Alfred G. Gomez Jr., became the first person to formally announce his plans to run for Reeves County Judge, saying on Monday he’ll be a candidate in the March primary election.
Gomez took steps earlier this year to seek the position held by Jimmy B. Galindo for the past 11 years when he announced his treasurer’s designation. Monday’s announcement comes one month before the filing period begins for the March Democratic and Republican primary elections.
Galindo has not yet formally announced whether or not he’ll see a fourth term as Reeves County Judge in the March primary election.
Gomez, the son of former Pecos city councilman Al Gomez Sr., and former Pecos municipal court judge Connie Gomez, is the principal owner of Alfredo’s Restaurant on Cedar Street - a business he helped start in 2000 when he moved back to Pecos with wife Mary Ann and daughter Erica.
The chance to open his own restaurant in his hometown brought him back.
“I love this town and I love this county. My family is here, and the chance to make my living here was to much to pass up,” he said.
According to Gomez his past five years operating a business and living in Reeves County led to his decision to run for county judge.
“I think Reeves County needs a change and I think I can make a difference as county judge,” he said.
Gomez said his first priority as judge would be to rein in county spending and to try and improve the county’s credibility, focusing on the troubles the county ran into filling the new Reeves County Detention Center III in 2003 and 2004.
“We have got to get our finances straightened out. We have to secure a long-term agreement with Board of Prisons to fill RCDC III.”
“Reeves County lacks credibility today because of its financial situation. That would be my first priority. We need a realistic budget and solid five-year plan. Then we need to live within our means just like every family and every business in this county does every day,” he said.
A business-like approach is a common theme with Gomez.
“Reeves County is hurting. If we are going to survive we have to create a pro-business atmosphere here. We do not have that now. Our county judge has to be involved regionally and statewide if we are going to attract business and industry,” Gomez said.
“Being an elected official is about service. Too often that does not seem to be the case in Reeves County,” Gomez said.
Gomez said that his record of community service since returning to Pecos is evidence of his commitment to the town and the county.
Although born in Pecos, Gomez graduated from Fort Stockton High School where his parents owned the first Alfredo’s Restaurant that they closed in 1993.
After high school Gomez studied music and business at West Texas State University and Sul Ross.
Music won out early in Gomez’ life and he began touring with the Glenn Miller Orchestra as a trombone player.
Eventually he left college to join Little Joe y La Famalia as a guitar player and from 1982 until 1995 music was his life.
From 1995 until moving back to Pecos, Gomez worked for a freight-forwarding warehouse in Laredo that shipped raw materials to Mexican maquiladoras and then shipped the finished product back into the States.
Gomez said he has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since 2000 and served as the organizations president in 2003-2004. As well he is a member of the Board of Directors for the Chamber, the vice-president of the Lion’s Club, a member of the board of directors for the U. S. Bowling Congress, and a director for the Pecos Economic Development Corporation.
“The citizens of this county deserve good service and I think I know how to provide it. I like working with the people of Reeves County. I do it every day at my restaurant and in my personal life and I can bring that same level of service to the county if the people will have me.”
Missing girl home, suspect free in Mexico
By JON FULBRIGHT
A Pecos teen missing for over a month was returned to her mother on Friday, after the girl was found by Mexican authorities in a house in Durango last week.
Rosario J. Cerna disappeared from her parents’ home on Sept. 7 and was believed to be with a 21-year-old man in Mexico. On Thursday, Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney was notified that the man, Jose Garcia, had contacted Mexican law enforcement authorities about the girl’s whereabouts in Durango, which is located about 250 miles southwest of Monterey, Mex.
“We had the defendant Jose Garcia telephone asking if authorities had warrants for him in Texas,” McKinney said. “That’s when we found out where he was at.
“He actually turned himself in to Mexican authorities in Durango,” the police chief said, but he added that as of now, he remains free in Durango, pending determination of his citizenship.
“We are attempting to find out in this case if the defendant is a U.S. citizen or if he’s a Mexican national. That will determine the extradition process.”
McKinney said child protective services officials in Mexico placed Cerna in foster care, until she could be transported to Juarez, where she was reunited with her mother. He said the transfer was set up after taking with the Mexican consulate in Presidio and with the U.S. consulate in Monterey.
Cerna’s mother and Pecos Police Officer Juan Prieto went to Juarez on Friday up pick up the 13-year-old, who was then returned to her family’s home.
“We’re just elated she’s back home safe,” McKinney said. “Olga Lopez was the investigator in the case, and she did a great job.”
“He (Prieto) told me she was glad to be reunited with her mother, but I don’t think he’s interviewed her at any length,” he said, adding that they would meet with the teen to go over what happened between the day she disappeared and the time she was turned over to Mexican child protective services workers.
“We’re going to let her spend a little time with her mother, and then bring her in later this week, and do a follow-up interview,” McKinney said.
Pair get 20-year federal terms in ‘drug club’ case
Key members of a drug gang organized while members were serving time at a Big Spring prison have been sentenced, along with two Mexican nationals who pled guilty to federal alien smuggling charges.
United States Attorney Johnny Sutton announced on Friday that Jose “Juni” Padilla and Gregory Leon Palmer, both key members of a major drug trafficking gang many have referred to as the “FCI-Big Spring Alumni Club,” were both sentenced in U.S. District Court in Midland to 20 years in federal prison. The gang’s leaders, Adrian Crook and Eli Carrillo, were previously sentenced to 30 years and 24 years plus four months incarceration, respectively.
According to the indictment, the leaders of the gang met while they were serving time at the federal prison in Big Spring on drug trafficking offenses. When they were released, they worked together to establish themselves as major drug traffickers.
According to court testimony, by November 2003, the gang was manufacturing and distributing three to five kilograms of crack cocaine a week in Midland, Odessa, Dallas, Lubbock and San Angelo.
A federal grand jury indicted 21 members and associates of the gang in March 2005 for conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. To date, 20 of them have been convicted. One is a fugitive.
The convictions are the result of a two year Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Texas Department of Public Safety. The Midland Police Department, Odessa Police Department, Monahans Police Department, Ector County Sheriff’s Office, Midland County Sheriff’s Office, San Angelo Drug Task Force, and West Texas Narcotics Enforcement Task Force also participated in the investigation.
AUSA Glenn Roque Jackson prosecuted the case for the government.
Also on Friday in Midland, Sutton announced that Jose Luis Landa-Perez and Mariano Valdez-Munoz of Torreon, Mexico, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to smuggle and transport illegal aliens.
On August 30, Union Pacific employees in Hudspeth County, discovered a deceased male human body next to its tracks near Fort Hancock. The head of the body was mangled. No identification papers were found on or near the corpse.
Working with Union Pacific, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents determined that the train that had most recently passed through the area would soon be entering Midland, several hundred miles to the east. After stopping the train, the agents found 10 illegal aliens on board. Also, blood was visible on the undercarriage of the train car.
During the investigation, the deceased was identified as 23-year-old Hector Abel Duarte, a native and citizen of Honduras who had crossed the border into the United States illegally the previous day. The illegal aliens found on the train told authorities that Duarte had died as a result of an accident while falling from the train. Furthermore, they identified Landa-Perez and Valdez-Munoz, two of illegal aliens discovered on the train, as the “coyotes,” or smuggling ringleaders, and that they each paid a fee of between $1,500 and $1,900 to be smuggled into the United States and be transported to Dallas.
Jose Luis Landa-Perez and Mariano Valdez-Munoz remain in federal custody pending sentencing. Since a death occurred during the offense, each defendant faces up to life in federal prison and a maximum of $250,000 fine. No sentencing dates have been scheduled.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Police Department, Midland County Sheriff’s Office together with the police department of Union Pacific Railroad. Assistant United States Attorney John Klassen is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
Williams received state honor as teacher of year
By JON FULBRIGHT
A Pecos High School teacher was among a group of teachers honored in Austin this past Friday as the 2005 Teachers of the Year for Texas.
Brian Williams, a history teacher at Pecos High School, was named the Region 18 Secondary School Teacher of the Year, and was honored with other secondary and elementary school teachers in Austin. Region 18 is made up of 19 counties in the Permian Basin and Trans-Pecos region of West Texas.
“There were 40 teachers, and the two who were honored for the state,” Williams said. “The elementary teacher came from Amarillo and the secondary level teacher came from Plano.”
“Each of us received $500 and we received other prizes from SBC and some of the other sponsors,” Williams said.
He said Pecos High School principal Steven Lucas also made the trip to Austin, but superintendent Ray Matthews, and the state officials normally at the annual event, were not able to attend this year’s presentations due to problems caused in September by Hurricane Rita.
“They were having the superintendent’s conference at the same time because of the hurricane. They had to move it all to Dallas, so the commissioner (Education Commissioner Susan Neely) had a video address to give everybody,” Williams said.
The Region 18 Teacher of the Year was selected out of the secondary and elementary school teachers chosen by their respective districts. Williams, who has been with P-B-T ISD for almost 25 years, will be honored again on Nov. 18, at the Region 18 Service Center at Midland International Airport.
“It makes you feel good to get something like that,” Williams said. “All of the teachers represented there added up to 752 years teaching experience in the room.”
Spring prognosis proves wrong, as spreading of cancer is halted
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th part of a story by Enterprise business manager Peggy McCracken on her diagnosis of cancer and surgery in April of this year.
By PEGGY McCRACKEN
I can’t write anything without a deadline. From my years as a church secretary, when I had a weekly bulletin to publish, and often a weekly or monthly newsletter, I could never get started until hours before press time.
That carried over into reporting, when I joined the Enterprise staff in 1972. Our daily news deadline then was 12 noon, and I often gathered facts until 11 a.m. and then started typing on the ancient manual we used back then.
Most days I got my copy to the editor before he snatched me baldheaded. I suppose if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here now. Or would be baldheaded.
Thirty-plus years of reporting hasn’t changed me any. Whatever I have to do, whether writing a weekly column, updating a web page, posting receipts and making a deposit, or writing payroll checks, I don’t get started until time has run out.
I respect deadlines, and rarely miss one. But this month I plan to let a deadline come and go without notice. This is the month I was scheduled to die of breast cancer that has spread to the bones, but I have reason to believe that is not going to happen, and I will celebrate a joyous Thanksgiving.
When my oncologist told me last May that I would likely die in six months without treatment, and might live two or three years with treatment, I opted for the six months. My research led me to believe chemotherapy could hurt more than it would help.
Even though Dr. W.J. Bang, my breast cancer surgeon, urged me to call Baylor Medical Center for a second opinion, I still had done nothing after four months.
Then the pain started. Two sleepless nights changed my outlook, and I decided a second opinion might be a good idea. In the meantime, I stopped taking a calcium tablet that apparently was causing shortness of breath, and began a daily exercise routine that stopped the pain.
A bone scan in late September showed not only that the cancer had not spread since May; it had decreased in some areas. I gather that the pain I had experienced was caused by something other than cancer in the bones.
A blood test showed high markers for breast cancer and heart calcification, but that I am otherwise healthy. Dr. David Watkins put me on an anti-hormone drug that is supposed to keep breast cancer from growing somewhere else in the body, and a bone strengthener to stop the little critters from eating holes in my bones.
So here I am, five months after my death sentence, feeling better than ever, thanks to all of you who have taken time to pray for me.
Some arthritis pain reminds me I am no longer 16, and like my push mower, I run out of gas after an hour or two of mowing grass and tall weeds.
My heart doctor listened to my chest Thursday, shook my hand and made an appointment to see me again in a year. I’m betting I will meet that deadline and enjoy yet another Thanksgiving in good health.
Museum plans book sale on Friday
The Friends of the Museum will be sponsoring a Bake Sale beginning at 9:30 a.m., Friday, Nov. 4, at the West of the Pecos Museum.
Lots of delicious baked goods will be available.
Library’s Story Hour next week
Children’s Story Hour will be held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday, Nov. 7, at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park St.
Everyone is invited to come and read to the children or to participate in any way.
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321
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