Court warns Mission man of contacting sex assault accusers

EDINBURG — A Mission man facing charges of sexual assault of a minor related to a broader human trafficking case was warned about making contact with alleged victims involved in the case.

During a pretrial hearing in Mario Ruiz’s courtroom; state prosecutors advised the court that Genaro Fuentes’ wife had made contact with at least one victim connected to the case against Fuentes.

Fuentes, his mother Rita Martinez Moreno, and two other men are accused of sexually abusing minor children while they worked at a rural Mission bar owned by Martinez, and where Fuentes was an employee.

Fuentes, who is currently free on a $75,000 bond, is accused of the alleged assaults dating back to the late 90s, when Fuentes was still underage, records show.

The court warned Fuentes, who is being monitored through GPS tracking, as part of the Alternate Incarceration Program, that if he, or anyone related to him approached any of the victims the court would immediately revoke the current bond and place him in custody.

Fuentes nodded, and told the court he understood.

The 37-year-old man’s mother is accused of forcing young girls brought over from Mexico to work at her bar, raping them, and allowing others to rape them, over a span of several years, beginning in the year 2000.

Monday’s hearing marked the second time they had made such a claim about defendants in the case, specifically in late August during one of Martinez’s pretrial hearings, when chief prosecutor of the county’s special victims division, Hope Palacios, advised the court that victims were being approached and threatened by Martinez’s relatives. This led to at least one victim being placed in protective custody.

In addition to Martinez and her son Fuentes, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper; Juan Angel Barrientos, of Edinburg; and another Mission man, Mariano Israel Vera Vega, 53, also face sexual assault charges, records show.

Barrientos, who is the only other defendant aside from Fuentes to be out on bond, was most recently in court last week; attempting to hide his face from photographers who were there to document his appearance in court, after he avoided the media at his initial formal arraignment in late August.

His case was called, and after some discussion about pending discovery, had his case reset for a mid-March court setting.

Vera and Martinez are due back before their respective courts for separate January settings.

The investigation was led by officials with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

In a news release from TABC shortly after the formal indictments were handed down, Executive Director Bentley Nettles said investigators are asking the public to come forward with information about the case as well as help identify other potential victims, believing there are more who have yet come forward.

“While these arrests mark a significant milestone in this case, our job is not over,” Nettles said. “We have strong reason to believe there are multiple victims still unaccounted for whose testimony could play a vital role in ensuring justice is served. We’re counting on the public to help us bring this case to a successful conclusion.”

Fuentes is due back in court in mid-February, records show.

lzazueta@themonitor.com