Investigators with the Starr County Attorney’s Special Crimes Unit recovered a deleted recording from a device they allege was secretly planted by the former city secretary for Rio Grande City in the office of the city’s human resources director.
The information was revealed in probable cause affidavits filed against the former city secretary, Lyzette Peña. The 33-year-old was arrested Thursday on two counts of unlawful interception, use, or disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications.
Authorities first arrested Peña in late January for a single count of the same charge after Rio Grande City’s human resource director, Valerie Brown, discovered the audio device in her office Sept. 6, 2019.
Investigators conducting a forensic review of the device, however, recently discovered a deleted file from May 2019.
“Additionally, a forensic search of the recording device also revealed a deleted file of a recording from 5-23-2019 in which Valerie is heard having a phone conversation about an employee who was rumored to have been arrested,” the probable cause affidavits stated.
A week later, detectives say City Manager Alberto Perez cited Brown for insubordination.
“A write-up on Valerie by the City Manager for insubordination on 5-30-2019 references the same information from Valerie’s private telephone conversation,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
When investigators first interviewed Peña after discovering the device, she “insisted” they should have spoken to Perez before speaking to her, detectives say in charging documents.
“Lyzette also told the detectives that she needed to check with the City Attorney to see how much information she could disclose,” according to the probable cause affidavit, which also stated that Pena denied knowing anything about the recorder while mentioning “an investigation into Valerie Brown.”
Investigators say they asked Peña how any of this was related and “Lyzette stated that, ‘They wanted to know how easy it was to get information from Valerie,’” according to the charging document.
The two new counts allege Pena recorded conversations with two other people in Brown’s office, Noe Castillo and Juan Perez, who both told investigators they did not provide consent to be recorded, authorities say in documents.