Jail employees charged with taking bribes 

East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa, Texas.

McALLEN — A group of employees at a GEO Group-run correctional facility face federal charges for bribery and sexual abuse, records show.

A detention hearing is set for Wednesday afternoon for former employees of the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa who have been accused of taking bribes in order to smuggle contraband into the facility and an accusation of sexual abuse from one former employee.

Former correctional officers, Erasmo Edwardo Loya, 54, of Pharr, Jayson Gino Catalan, 36, of Mercedes, Jhaziel Enrique Loredo, 32, of Weslaco; along with Brenda Fuentes, 47, of Weslaco, a former cook supervisor, and Veronica Ortega, 43, of McAllen, a former certified medical assistant at the jail, each face federal charges of bribery, while Fuentes faces one count of sexual abuse of a ward, documents show.

The group was indicted Nov. 19 and arrested Nov. 22. They were terminated after their respective arrests, according to an email response from GEO Group, which owns the East Hidalgo Detention Center, a 1,300-bed facility.

“We can confirm that all of these employees were terminated from their positions shortly after their arrests. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate the matter,” the GEO Group spokesman stated.

According to the unsealed indictment against Loya, between Nov. 2016 and June 2019, he allegedly accepted bribes, specifically cash, and brought in contraband into the facility.

Loredo is also accused of taking cash bribes in exchange for bringing in contraband into the facility from Oct. 2018 to August 2019; while Catalan is accused of doing the same thing, between Jan. 2019 and July 31, 2019, records show.

Ortega, a nurse at the facility, is accused of taking bribes in exchange for bringing in contraband items between April 19, 2019 and May 19, 2019.

Fuentes, the cook supervisor, is accused of sexually abusing a ward who was not named but identified with the initials R.R.H. between July 30, 2019 and Aug. 8, 2019, according to the indictment. 

“(Fuentes) an employee at the East Hidalgo Detention Center, did knowingly engage in a sexual act, to wit, the contact between the mouth and genitals with federal inmate R.R.H., who was during this time in official detention and under the custodial, supervisory, and disciplinary authority of (Fuentes)..” the document stated.

It is likely one more person will be named in connection with the aforementioned defendants, as one case remained sealed as of Monday afternoon.

Fuentes and Loredo are scheduled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Juan F. Alanis for their respective detention hearings, while Catalan, Loya, and Ortega will appear before Alanis on Wednesday afternoon, court notes show. 

If convicted, the defendants face up to 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 fine.