December 2009 - Posts
Hundreds of middle and high school students are expected to participate
On Saturday December 5, 2009, attorneys with the Juvenile Unit of the El Paso County Attorney's Office will offer multi-media presentations to elementary, middle and high school students about the dangers of getting involved in drug trafficking activities, and the legal consequences of getting caught.
The presentations will be part of the 2009 Regional Youth Summit, scheduled for Saturday December 5, 2009 at El Dorado High School, 12401 Edgmere Blvd. from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The event is aimed to address the consequences youth face when dealing with risky behavior and poor lifestyle choices, including accepting to participate in drug trafficking activities such as becoming drug mules.
For the past decade, Mexican drug cartels have been actively recruiting teens from area middle and high school to smuggle drugs from Mexico into the U.S. Although during the last couple of years the number of teens arrested at El Paso Ports of Entry accused of drug trafficking has decreased slightly, recently the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) issued a state-wide warning informing unsuspecting parents that violent Mexican cartels and transnational gangs are actively recruiting Texas youngsters in schools and border communities. According to the warning, these criminal organizations are luring teens with the prospect of cars, money and notoriety, and promise them that if they are arrested, they will receive light sentences.
The El Paso County Attorney's Office was the first juvenile prosecutor's office in Texas to implement a zero-tolerance in drug trafficking cases. Previously, teens where detained for a brief period of time and then released to their families either in Mexico or the US. The zero-tolerance program was implemented along with an educational campaign that included radio and television commercials. The initiative helped reduce the juvenile drug arrests in El Paso County from 124 in 2001 to 24 in 2009.
Juvenile Prosecutors from the County Attorneys Office will speak to students about the misconceptions associated with drug trafficking and inform them of the facts and legal repercussions they may face.
WHO: County Attorney's Juvenile Unit
WHAT: International Juvenile Drug Trafficking Presentations
WHEN: Saturday December 5, 2009 from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: El Dorado High School 12401 Edgmere Blvd.
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Youth Summit 2009 Press Release.pdf
Chart Juvenile Drug Arrests 2001-2009.pdf
Bridge Drug Arrests 2008 and 2009.pdf
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the sentencing of a North-East contractor accused of Deceptive Business Practices.
34-year-old José Martínez pled guilty this week to 2 counts of committing a Deceptive Business Practice, a crime of dishonesty punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fine not to exceed $4,000. According to the police complaint, on December 14, 2007 Martínez charged an east-side home owner $9,550 to fix a roof and build a carport; however the job was never finished.
During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that in his advertisements Martínez falsely claimed he was licensed and bonded.
After accepting the guilty plea, County Court at Law #2 Judge Robert Anchondo sentenced Martinez to 90 days in jail.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said consumers should not only make sure contractors are licensed and bonded, but need to make sure all the permits are filed with the City.
"Con artists will do anything to get their hands on your money, including being dishonest about licenses and bonds. Consumers need to be very careful to hire only reputable businesses and not pay for work upfront," Bernal said.
"Once a homeowner parts with his money, all he has in return is the hope that the contractor will do what he said he would do. Civil suits against contractors are often a waste of time and money because even if the homeowner wins the suit he frequently cannot collect on the judgment," Bernal finalized.
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Roofer Sentenced Press Release.pdf
New program will save County residents a trip to downtown El Paso
On Thursday November 25, 2009 El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal announced the launching of "Hot Check E-pay," a new service that will make it easier for County residents to pay outstanding hot checks.
The County Attorney's Office offers free hot check collection services to all county residents and businesses that have problems locating check writers. During the last decade, the Hot Check Department has received on average 14,000 checks for collection every year. During 2009 our office has received 6,560 checks. Currently the County Attorney's Office is attempting to collect 3.24 million dollars in worthless checks.
One of the obstacles hot check writers faced while trying to take care of outstanding amounts was they had to pay in person on the fifth floor of the County Courthouse. In the past, some had expressed their fear of coming to the courthouse and getting arrested before they could take care of the outstanding amounts. Other hot check writers no longer live in El Paso and, until now, were not able to pay online or over the phone.
El Paso Commissioners Court recently approved a contract that allows County departments to receive credit card payments online. As soon as the decision was taken, the County Attorney's Office started working with the IT Department to develop a secure site to receive hot check payments via internet.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal explained that offering free collection of hot checks is an effective way to support the local economy.
"Hot checks hurt not only the business owners, but all the consumers as well. They increase the cost of doing business and merchants usually transfer those costs to consumers by increasing prices," Bernal said.
"We understand how important this service is for the community and that is why every day we are exploring new ways to increase hot check collections in El Paso County," Bernal finalized.
Individuals with outstanding hot checks can make online payments with credit cards by visiting the County Attorney's web page at www.epcounty.com/ca.
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Hot Check E-pay Press Release.pdf
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the sentencing of an east-side contractor who remained a fugitive several months after he was scheduled to appear in court to face criminal charges.
24-year-old Daniel Barajas pled guilty this week to one charge of Deceptive Business Practice, a class "A" misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or fine not to exceed $4,000.00.
Court records show that Barajas failed to appear for a court hearing in December 2008. He was arrested again on October 6, 2009, and this week County Court at Law #1 Judge Ricardo Herrera sentenced him to six months in jail for the crime of Deceptive Business Practice.
According to the police complaint, on October 11, 2007 Barajas charged an east-side home-owner $6,200 to construct a storage building; however the job was never finished.
El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said her office is committed to prosecute vigorously these types of crimes.
"Consumers must be very cautious when it comes to giving builders money up front. Once the consumer has given money to the unscrupulous contractor, it is very difficult for us to get it back. This is why we recommend to the public to pay the complete amount of the contract only after the job is finished, and after corroborating the quality of the goods or services received," Bernal said.
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Builder Sentenced Press Release.pdf
New County Attorney To Be Sworn-In Tomorrow Morning
First Assistant County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal will be sworn-in as the new El Paso County Attorney on Tuesday November 17, 2009, at 8:00 a.m. at the 65th District Court (11th floor of the County Courthouse). Her term of office will start immediately after sworn-in and will run until November 2010, right after the results of the constitutional election are canvassed.
At tomorrow's ceremony, 65th District Court Judge the Honorable Yahara Lisa Gutierrez will also administer the oath of office to 39 Assistant County Attorneys.
WHO: El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal
WHAT: Swearing-in Ceremony
WHEN: Tuesday November 17, 2009 at 8:00 a.m.
WHERE: 65th District Court, County Courthouse
500 E. San Antonio, Suite 1105.
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New County Attorney Swearing-In Ceremony Press Advisory.pdf
JO ANNE BERNAL
Office of the County Attorney
500 E. San Antonio, Room 503
El Paso, Texas 79901
Telephone: (915) 546-2083
Facsimile: (915) 546-2133
Jo Anne Bernal is the First Assistant El Paso County Attorney. Ms. Bernal has been a practicing attorney for 22 years and represents elected and appointed officials in litigation in state and federal court. In addition to handling complex litigation, she supervises 35 attorneys who practice both civil and criminal law in areas of practice that range in diversity from civil rights litigation to juvenile prosecution. Ms. Bernal has worked for County Attorney, Jose R. Rodriguez, since October 1993.
Ms. Bernal is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has been certified since 1993. She is currently the only female attorney board certified in Civil Trial Law in El Paso Texas. Ms. Bernal was an Assistant Attorney General in the Law Enforcement Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office from 1987 to 1993 where she represented state law enforcement agencies and officers in federal and state litigation.
She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. She is licensed to practice law before the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Bernal has served as a Board Member for the Advocacy Center for the Children of El Paso, the El Paso Police Department Citizen's Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Texas' Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters, and the Rio Grande Council of Governments Criminal Justice Advisory Committee. She regularly volunteers at the Opportunity Center for the Homeless of El Paso, has served as a mock trial coach for area high schools, is a member of the PTA and is a founding member of the Women's Political Action Committee.
On Monday November 9, 2009, El Paso County Attorney José R. Rodríguez, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Lutheran and Social Services, and the El Paso C.A.R.E. (Child Advocacy Recruitment Effort) Coalition will host the 2009 CARE Adoption Conference and Professional Seminar.
The purpose of the conference is to recruit foster and adoptive homes for local abused and neglected children.
This year's meeting will focus on promoting the adoption of teenagers who are in the system. It is much more difficult to find adoptive homes for teenagers because most individuals prefer to adopt babies or young children. In many cases, teenagers are never adopted and end up being released into the community after their 18th birthday. Without a family that cares for them, or a network of friends that can help them succeed in life, many of them become homeless and addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Adopting a child is not as difficult as some believe. The legal process is simple, and in most instances, families receive financial assistance from the government to help pay for additional expenses.
Attendees at this conference will be able to participate in breakout sessions. These sessions will provide information about CARE's local children available for adoption, post-adoption financial assistance programs, and exploration of issues regarding birth parents, adoptive families and the child, and parenting alternatives. They will also be able to have one-on-one discussions with current foster parents.
The event also provides professional training to individuals who work with abused children by presenting experts on complex needs of vulnerable children. For more information on the training sessions, please see the attached program.
Both the conference and professional seminar are free and open to the public. Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available.
WHO: County Attorney's Child Protective Services Unit
WHAT: 2009 C.A.R.E. Conference and Professional Seminar
WHEN: Monday November 9, 2009, from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
WHERE: El Paso Community College Administrative Services Center
9050 Viscount Blvd.
INFO: Norma Perú at 546-8160 Ext. 4455
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2009 CARE Conference Press Release.pdf
Developers illegally subdivided
residential lots lacking water, sewage facilities
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General
Greg Abbott charged the developers of the Galindo Subdivision in western
County with violating state
colonia-prevention laws. According to court documents filed in Travis County district court, the defendants
illegally subdivided residential lots and failed to install or bond water and
waste water facilities before selling the lots to unsuspecting purchasers.
The state's enforcement
action, which was filed jointly with El Paso County Attorney José R. Rodríguez,
names Homero R. Galindo, Rosella A. Galindo, Nahum Prieto and Rosella Prieto.
All four were cited for subdividing an eight-acre tract into four lots for
residential use without obtaining the required plat approval from El Paso County Commissioners
Court. Further, the defendants sold the lots without
installing or bonding water and wastewater facilities, a basic requirement for
plat approval. Having an unapproved subdivision lot can bar a buyer from
obtaining needed water and electricity connections.
Under Texas law, developers in
counties along the Texas-Mexico border must obtain county approval of a
subdivision plat before subdividing and selling residential lots. Obtaining plat
approval secures water and wastewater facilities, and makes the property
eligible for connections to the local electric utility. In Texas, residential
subdivisions near the U.S.-Mexico border that lack adequate water or wastewater
services required by state law are commonly referred to as colonias. Most
colonias lie outside city limits or in isolated areas of a county.
The state's enforcement
action seeks an injunction compelling the defendants to comply with
colonia-prevention laws, as well as an order requiring the developers to file
proper plats with the county and install fully compliant water and sewer
systems. Alternatively, the state seeks refunds for lot purchasers harmed by the
defendants' alleged conduct. The Attorney General also seeks civil penalties of
up to $15,000 for each lot conveyed in violation of the
The case against the
Galindoses and Prietoses is one of six colonias cases the Office of the Attorney
General has pursued this year. During the 2007 regular session, the Texas
Legislature passed a measure that provides the OAG with additional resources to
prevent unlawful colonia developments. Since Sept. 1, 2007, the OAG has filed 19
enforcement actions involving subdivisions in five counties. Of the 19 petitions
filed, seven cases have been prosecuted to final
residential property outside the city limits, border area home buyers should
check with county officials to confirm that the property was legally subdivided
and that the developer has made necessary arrangements to supply required
Texans can file complaints
with the OAG against developers or sellers who fail to provide water and
wastewater services, or who subdivide land without first obtaining necessary
county approval. Complaints can be filed on the Attorney General's Web site at
www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or by calling (800)
The Office of the Attorney
General also maintains the state's Colonia Geographic Database, which offers
geographic and descriptive data on more than 2000 colonias in 30 border area
counties. To access the database, or for more information regarding Attorney
General Abbott's colonias-prevention efforts, visit the "Texas-Mexico Border"
page on the Attorney General's Web site.
El Paso County vs Galindo Lawsuit.pdf