A former employee of the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa has been sentenced to federal prison for carrying on an improper relationship with a prisoner there.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed down a sentence of one year and one day in federal prison to Brenda Alicia Fuentes, 48, of Weslaco.
The former cook supervisor admitted she carried on a sexual relationship with a prisoner when she pleaded guilty to the sole charge of the indictment in May. Fuentes admitted to performing oral sex on the detainee, whom the indictment identifies as “RRH.”
Additionally, the man told investigators Fuentes gave him her phone number so the pair could speak when Fuentes wasn’t at work, according to a deputy U.S. marshal who testified at Fuentes’ bond and detention hearing last November.
In addition to the sentence, Fuentes will be required to register as a sex offender and will be under supervised release for three years after her prison term, court records show. Fuentes must also submit a DNA sample to the government.
Alvarez ordered Fuentes to surrender herself to the U.S. Marshals Service within the next three months at a date to be determined by the agency.
Fuentes is among a total of seven former staffers at the private federal prison — which primarily houses immigration detainees on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to face federal charges.
Of those, three more have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Another three are pending trial.
Among those charged is Fuentes’ own daughter, 21-year-old Amber Marie Estrada.
Estrada, who was employed as a correctional officer at the facility before moving on to work at a detention center in Raymondville, was arrested in March on bribery charges. She is accused of accepting bribes — including money and a horse — in exchange for bringing contraband into the La Villa facility.
A final pretrial conference that had been set for early July was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and has been reset for Oct. 29, court records show.
Three men who pleaded guilty to their charges also await sentencing.
Domingo Gonzalez Hernandez, 25, of Mercedes, is slated to be sentenced on Oct. 15.
Gonzalez Hernandez, a former correctional officer, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery of a public official in late May. Federal prosecutors say he accepted cash, a gift card and a Chevrolet pickup truck in exchange for smuggling contraband into the prison.
Jayson Catalan, 37, of Mercedes, and Jhaziel Loredo, 32, of Progreso, also pleaded guilty to bribery this spring. Their sentencing dates were similarly canceled because of the pandemic and have not yet been rescheduled, court records show.
Meanwhile, two more defendants are awaiting their day in court on bribery charges.
Erasmo Eduardo Loya, of Edcouch, is a former correctional officer who is accused of smuggling food and marijuana into the prison in exchange for money. No trial date has yet been set in his case.
Veronica Ortega, of McAllen, is a certified medical assistant accused of smuggling marijuana into the prison in exchange for money.
Jury selection in her case is slated for Nov. 3, a date that may be delayed again as the pandemic continues to impact court calendars.