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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, December 3, 2004

DA confirms RCDC probe underway since summer

Staff Writers

An investigation is underway into documents linked to a bank account at the Reeves County Detention Center, according to 143rd District Attorney Randy Reynolds.

Reynolds said that in reference to an article that appeared in Tuesday’s Odessa American about a Texas Ranger investigation into the RCDC, “As current district attorney, I can confirm that the DA’s office received information about several documents that had been questioned concerning a bank account at the RCDC.”

“We received information about certain documents at the RCDC that were questioned, as a result, this past summer I notified the Texas Rangers of the situation,” said Reynolds. “The case is pending,” he said.

Reynolds said that at present the persons involved that we are looking at are certain employees at the RCDC.

“There’s been no arrest warrants or affidavit warrants as of this date,” said Reynolds. Reynolds said that the DA’s office is awaiting completion of an outside audit that is part of the ongoing investigation.

“We have an outside audit that is being conducted on these accounts,” said Reynolds. “At present certain actions by certain employees at the RCDC are being investigated,” he said.

Accusations were made in a petition filed in July by local resident Bobby Hanks alleging irregularities at the RCDC. Hanks made his charges against Reeves County Judge Jimmy Galindo, commissioners Herman Tarin and Felipe Arredondo and several other county and RCDC employees alleging both mismanagement and of questionable actions related to the prison. The report of the Texas Ranger investigation in the American was part of a story on Hanks’ refilled petition.

Reynolds gave no specific names of persons who might be targets of the investigation in his statement on Thursday.

Under state law, Reynolds can investigate the charges in Hanks’ petition, if he finds grounds for action. Reynolds said after the initial July filing he was reviewing the allegations, and on Thursday said the current probe did begin during the summer. Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski told the Odessa American he began working on the case on Oct. 11, after he replaced Gerry Villalobos as Texas Ranger for the area. Villalobos is now working with the 143rd District Attorney’s office.

In his original filing, Hanks said that Galindo and his cousin, RCDC employee Randy Baeza were operating a service providing deliveries to the prison, which is a violation of Texas conflict of interest laws. Hanks said he sought information on Beaver Express LLC of Woodward, Okla., and was told by company employee Brian Stone that he did not believe the two were involved in a conflict of interest, though Hanks alleges Stone declined to send any information on the earned income or commission paid to Galindo and Baeza.

Hanks said other information requests to County Auditor Lynn Owens determined the billing records for shipping to the RCDC were housed at a warehouse at the prison, but that request for the records have not received any response.

The petition goes on to allege that Galindo and Baeza coerced companies shipping to RCDC to use Beaver Express, in violation of both Texas Conflict of Interest laws and federal laws pertaining to shipments across state lines for profit by coercion of government officials.

Baeza is not the cousin of Galindo, though that was stated in the petition. He has since resigned his job at the RCDC and now operates a liquor store in Pecos.

Galindo said in early August that the commissioners court has to authorize payments to anyone, vendors and payroll.

“Nor does the commissioners court have the authority to hire in any department,” said Galindo. “The commissioners court doesn’t do the hiring for any of those departments.” He added Owens stated in a letter to Hanks submitted with the petition that some of the billing records being sought on shipments to the RCDC did not exist.

Hanks’ petition was thrown out on Aug. 11 by 143rd District Court Judge Bob Parks for being improperly filed, but Hanks was allowed to refile the petition without prejudice and did so with the 143rd District Clerk’s office on Nov. 24.

Hanks added three other allegations against the county in his new petition, and also included an attack against Parks over his inaction in copies of the refilled petition given to the Enterprise. However, Parks said on Wednesday that was not part of the petition filed with the district clerk’s office.

Parks declined to comment on the petition or on Hanks’ statements in his four-page statement attached to the refilled document.

Reports have also circulated in Pecos that FBI agents also have been involved in the current investigation, but officials with the agency’s Midland and El Paso offices said last week they could not comment on whether or not the agency was looking into any problems at the RCDC.

“We can’t comment on anything about any investigation, because to do so may imply guilt, and an investigation implies neither guilt nor innocence,” said Art Werge, spokesman for the FBI’s office in El Paso.

Bill Vanderland, supervising agent for the FBI’s Midland office, also said he could not comment on any investigation, as did officials with the GEO Group, the company retained last year by Reeves County to manage the 3,120 bed prison.

The petition centered on allegations of both incompetence and misconduct in connection with construction of the 960-bed Reeves County Detention Center III project. It claimed several other violations against Galindo, including refusal to make county financial information available under the Texas Open Records Act, violation of county government nepotism laws, and a conflict of interest between Galindo and a company hired by the county to make deliveries to the RCDC. Hanks also cites the recent transfers of several county employees to RCDC III as having violated state law.

In his refilled petition, Hanks added three additional claims. They ask that Galindo and the commissioners’ court cease all nonessential non-budgetary expenditures, nonessential hiring, contracting or transferring any employee from an elected or appointed officials’ office. He also wants the renewal of the $120,000 annual payment to Washington D.C. lobbyist Randy DeLay invalidated, saying that the lobbyists employed by Geo Group can find prisoners for the RCDC III unit.

The county retained Geo after hiring DeLay in 2003 to find inmates to fill the RCDC III, after the U.S. Bureau of Prisons declined to place inmates in he facility. The county signed an agreement to house prisoners from the State of Arizona in February, a agreement renewed for one year in July. However, Arizona officials have said they expect to have enough bed space by next year to be able to bring back prisoners currently being housed in Texas and Oklahoma.

Hanks said employees transferred from various county departments to the RCDC III on April 12 of this year due to budget problems should have been reinstated before DeLay’s contract was renewed and salary increases were given to elected officials. DeLay is the brother of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and was originally hired on a one-year contract.

Galindo said following the filing of the petition in July that the county was working on getting a law firm out of Austin to represent the county. He also disputed the allegations made in the petition.

Juarez woman facing charges for pot wheels

Staff Writer

Four wheels filled with marijuana were found on a pick-up being driven by a Juarez woman, after it was stopped on Interstate 20 Tuesday morning by Trans-Pecos Drug Task Force officers.

The 1977 Ford pick-up was being driven by the woman, identified as Bedolla Fernandez of Juarez, Chih., Mex., who was headed eastbound on I-20 near the 28 mile marker, six miles east of Toyah when the vehicle was stopped. According to Trans Pecos Drug Task Force Officer Kevin Roberts, Fernandez allowed officers to conduct a search of the vehicle and the marijuana was discovered inside metal containers wrapped around the rims inside the tires.

The pick-up was driven to Jim & I Exxon in Pecos, where the wheels were removed and a welder was called in to open up the eight metal boxes to reveal the marijuana. Roberts said the marijuana totaled 159 pounds and had a street value of $71,550.

Fernandez was transported to Reeves County Jail, where she was charged with possession of marijuana over 50 and under 2,000 pounds.

Roberts said in the last two weeks the Task Force has seized over 300 pounds of marijuana in traffic stops along I-20 in Reeves County, with a street value of $139,500. “Since June, approximately 37 defendants have been apprehended off I-20 and about 450 pounds of marijuana have been seized, along with about $608,000 in U.S. currency,” he said.

In addition, 17 vehicles have been seized by the task force since June, when Roberts said the current funding year began.

Festival of light theft reports probed

Christmas lighting season has begun, and Pecos police are looking into some reports on Christmas lighting thefts on the south side of town.

Police have received three reports of stolen lights from homeowners this week, and one woman has been cited by police for theft under $50 in connection with one of the incidents.

Police said they were called to the 2200 block of Wyoming Street at 1:42 a.m. on Wednesday in reference to the theft of Christmas lights from two homes. Investigator Kelly Davis said that while officers were at the scene, a van drove by that the residents said was possibly involved in the thefts.

The vehicle was stopped and searched, and some of the lights were found inside. Davis said the driver of the van, identified as April Valenzuela, was given a citation for theft under $50, a Class C misdemeanor. “The value of the property determines the level of the misdemeanor,” Davis said.

The other two reports also were on Wednesday. Police were called back to the 2000 block of Wyoming at 2:10 p.m. for a report of a theft of Christmas lights, while officers were called out to the 2100 block of Hackberry Street at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday for another theft report. In both cases, no stolen lights were found.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies. The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.

*** Three Hobbs, N.M. men at the Reeves County Detention Center were arrested by police on Nov. 21 and charged with possession of a controlled substance in or on the property of a correctional facility. Police said they were called to the prison at 3:03 p.m., where they arrested Juan Martin Padilla, 32, Daniel G. Aremdnariz, 21, and Victor Zaragosa, 21, all of Hobbs. The three were taken from the prison to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center where they were formally charged.

*** Abigail Lee Taylor, 23, of San Antonio, was arrested by police on Nov. 20 in the 700 block of Raul Florez Boulevard on a charge of possession of marijuana. The arrest was a Class A misdemeanor and occurred following a traffic stop, when marijuana was found inside the vehicle.

*** Emilio Acosta, Jr., 24, of 2044 Rhodes St., was arrested on a warrant out of Midland County charging him with theft by check over $250 and under $500. The arrest was made on Nov. 20 on a records check, after officers were called to Acosta’s home in response to a disturbance.

*** Pecos police arrested a 16-year-old juvenile of Nov. 20 at 5:47 p.m. on a charge of assault causing bodily injury under the Family Violence Act. Police said the arrest was made in the 1900 block of South Hackberry Street after receiving a call from a parent that the juvenile had attacked him, kicking him in the left bicep, chest and stomach.

*** Arturo Hernandez, 22, of 613 S. Hackberry St., was arrested by police on Nov. 16 at 11:15 p.m. and charged with evading arrest. Police said Hernandez was driving without his headlights on in the 600 block of South Cherry Street, and refused to stop until the 600 block of South Hickory Street.

*** Patricia Hernandez Munoz, 32, of 415 S. Cherry St., was arrested on Nov. 30 in the 600 block of South Pecan Street and charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license. Police said the arrest was made after Munoz had been stopped three other times on the same violation.

*** Moises Castillo, 32, of Balmorhea was arrested on Nov. 28 at the Suavacito Club, 900 S. Cedar St., and charged with speeding after a records check turned up an outstanding warrant.

*** Alejandro D. Avila, 23, 317 N. Pecan St., was arrested by police for speeding and no proof of liability insurance. Police said the arrest was made after Avila’s vehicle was stopped by sheriff’s deputies at the intersection of Duval Road (FM 2117) and Business I-20.

*** Dante Cerna of Odessa was arrested by police on Nov. 26 on a warrant charging him with assault under the Family Violence Act. Police said the arrest was made after they were called to 1909 Scott Street in response to a disturbance.

“Rodeo Christmas” theme for Friday’s parade

“Rodeo Christmas” is the theme for the annual Pecos Christmas Parade, which is scheuled for Friday evening.

Line-up will be at 5 p.m., at the Pecos High School, with the parade beginning at 6 p.m. The parade will travel down Eddy, Third and Oak streets before ending up at the Reeves County Courthouse front steps with hot chocolate and cookies for the youngsters. The lighting of the courthouse will also take place at this time.

Everyone is invited to attend.

Friday’s parade follows Thursday evening’s Community Christmas Tree Lighting at Maxey Park, sponsored by Pecos Rotary Club.

Donations can still be made for a string of light, for $10 per string light. Donor’s names can be called in to any Rotary member in order to complete acknowledgement list.

Contact or visit Jean Winget (Sunday House) 447-2215; Ken Winkles (Winkles Trucking) 447-2108; Leo Hung (Professional Pharmacy) 447-2266; Bobby Clark (Security State Bank) 445-9000 or John Grant (West Texas National Bank) 445-9444.

Library’s story hour on Monday

Story Hour will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, Dec. 6, at the Reeves County Library, 505 S. Park.

All children in the community are invited to attend.

Arts and Crafts bazaar planned

A Christmas Arts and Crafts Bazaar is scheduled for 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., this Saturday, Dec. 4, at Santa Rosa Hall, 600 E. Third.

Delicious food, religious store, arts and crafts will all be a part of the event on Saturday. The bazaar will feature unique gifts and children’s games.

Everyone is invited to come out and browse.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 432-445-5475, FAX 432-445-4321

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