South Texas prosecutor charged in federal bribery case

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An assistant district attorney in Hidalgo County has been charged with making false statements to federal agents who were investigating a bribery case connected to her brother.

Cynthia Alanis, 27, was hired in November 2018 by Hidalgo County, four months after she passed her bar exam, according to news reports.  She was arrested last week, although the charges were filed earlier in February under a sealed indictment. The bribery and false statements allegedly took place between February 2018 and February 2019.

Her brother Roel, also an attorney, is alleged to have bribed employees at two immigration detention facilities in Willacy County, near the border with Mexico, to obtain a list of detainees. Such lists are privileged documents, supposedly available only to law enforcement officers. Information on the list includes detainees’ names and alien registration numbers – similar in privacy matters to social security numbers.

According to a Justice Department statement, Cynthia visited the detainees when her brother could not.

Federal agents allege in Roel’s indictment that he paid up to $1,000 to employees in federal detention centers for the lists. According to the indictment, he would then text the lists to his associates, who would visit and try to get the detainees to use his law firm in their immigration cases.

In February 2019 Cynthia allegedly told investigators she did not know about the lists.  Three employees who worked in the detention centers were arrested in May

Roel Alanis was arrested in July and is charged with seven counts of bribing a public official. Both Cynthia and Roel have pleaded not guilty.

Roel has his own law firm and has handled defendants charged with low-level crimes including driving while intoxicated.

Both Cynthia and Roel, 39, attended St. Mary’s University School of Law and interned with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said in a statement that Cynthia was fired from her county job because of the arrest.

“I have been advised that Misdemeanor Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Alanis in my office was arrested by federal authorities,” the statement said. “The employee has been terminated. It is my understanding that the charges filed are unrelated to any of the work performed by the former employee in this office… .”

Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].

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