Attorney says Progreso mayor may resign

2 weeks ago 24

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS (ValleyCentral) — Progreso Mayor Gerardo “Jerry” Alanis is prepared to resign — if that would persuade a judge to release him from jail.

Attorney O. Rene Flores, who represents Alanis, made the announcement Tuesday morning during a bond hearing in Brownsville.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alejandra Andrade, however, said Alanis should remain in jail regardless.

“If he does quit or resign from his position as mayor, there’s still a lot of influence he could exert over witnesses and associates who are part of this investigation,” Andrade said.

Gerardo "Jerry" Alanis. (CBS 4 News File Photo)

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations arrested Alanis in March. He’s charged with assisting a drug trafficking organization that transported cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston.

The investigation started in 2020, when Border Patrol arrested a former Progreso Independent School District bus driver.

Faced with a lengthy prison sentence, the former bus driver pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government.

Prosecutors charged eight people — including Jerry Alanis and his brother, Progreso school board Trustee Francisco “Frank” Alanis — with participating in the conspiracy.

Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, arrested Frank Alanis in October 2023.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Ignacio Torteya III set bond at $250,000. Frank Alanis posted the bond and returned to work at City Hall, where he’s a top administrator.

Homeland Security Investigations arrested Jerry Alanis in March.

Andrade, the federal prosecutor, asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Betancourt to keep him in jail.

“There are no conditions or combination of conditions that could, one, assure the defendant’s appearance in court,” Andrade said during a hearing on March 21. “But also the safety of the community, specifically the community of Progreso.”

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Pablo Barrera, who testified during the hearing, said Jerry Alanis participated in a scheme to store drugs at Dorothy Thompson Middle School in Progreso.

Agents searched the school in October 2023, when they arrested Frank Alanis.

“We did not find any narcotics that day, but we did find two boxes of vacuum sealed bags used to repackage narcotics — commonly, very commonly used to repackage narcotics — inside the IT room,” Barrera said.

Agents also searched a home owned by Frank and Jerry’s mother, Maria De La Luz Alanis, where they found more than $722,000 in cash.

Barrera said federal agents wanted to speak with Jerry Alanis that day, but he slipped away.

Agents in unmarked cars watched Jerry Alanis leave campus in a black BMW. At the school, though, someone told agents “he was at a funeral and had not reported to work that day,” Barrera said.

The agents followed Jerry Alanis until he ditched the BMW, jumped in a truck and drove away, Barrera said.

In a phone call from jail, Frank Alanis asked his wife about Jerry Alanis.

“And she stated that he had disappeared,” Barrera said. “That he had vanished. That he went into hiding.”

Betancourt, the magistrate judge, ordered Jerry Alanis held without bond.

“I will find that you are a danger to the community, by clear and convincing evidence, based on the conduct that has been presented of the use of a school — a public school in the United States — to traffic narcotics,” Betancourt said.

Betancourt was also concerned Jerry Alanis wouldn’t show up in court.

“As evidenced by the fact that you went in hiding after your brother’s arrest in October,” Betancourt said, and apparently came up with a story about a funeral “when, in fact, agents had seen you at the school.”

The federal courthouse in Brownsville, Texas, on Dec. 1, 2023. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / CBS 4 News)

Jerry Alanis appealed the decision to U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr., who held a hearing on Tuesday.

Rodriguez questioned why Frank Alanis had been released on bond but Jerry Alanis hadn’t.

Andrade, the federal prosecutor, said the government is actually concerned about both Jerry Alanis and Frank Alanis.

They’re powerful people in Progreso, Andrade said, and may use that power to influence witnesses or interfere with the investigation.

Jerry Alanis should be held without bond, Andrade said, and the government is concerned Frank Alanis may not be complying with his conditions of release.

If the government can prove Frank Alanis isn’t complying, Andrade said the government will ask a judge to revoke his bond.

After indictment, business as usual in Progreso

Flores, the attorney who represents Jerry Alanis, said his client is a lifelong resident of Progreso with no criminal record.

Statements from the government about Jerry Alanis intimidating witnesses or improperly influencing people in Progreso aren’t supported by testimony from the hearing, Flores said, or any other evidence.

“That’s not even a proffer,” Flores said. “Much less testimony.”

Jerry Alanis is prepared to resign as mayor if that would assuage any concerns about improper influence, Flores said.

Rodriguez, the district judge, called the decision a “close call.”

“I will issue a written order with my decision,” Rodriguez said.

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