Sheriff: Circumstances surrounding prison escape “suspicious”
Left to right, top to bottom: Francisco Meza-Rojas, Joel Armando Mata-Castro, Saul Leonard Salazar-Aguirre,
Vicente Mendiola-Garcia, Enrique Peña-Saenz, Fernando Garza-Cruz
TheTownCrier is working on a story about incompetent private prisons, political contributions and illegal aliens, which may tie into this news. Typically the news media is all over a story of 6 inmates breaking out, but since 5 are illegal aliens they seem to be ignoring it. You can guess as to the other one, anchor baby, former amnesty, green carder???
Sept. 20, 2006
LA VILLA — Federal and local authorities are still looking for six men who escaped from a federal prison last night.
The men escaped from the East Hidalgo Detention Center around 9:40 p.m. Tuesday by holding a foot-long, homemade knife to the neck of a prison guard, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Joe Magallan said.
They then tied up the guard and locked him in a room before escaping through the backdoor of the building and using wire cutters to detach an electric fence from the anchor holding it to the ground, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said.
Someone had evidently de-electrified the fence beforehand, Treviño said. The guard was unharmed.
The men had been housed in a minimum to medium security building within the prison complex, said Richard Harbison, a spokesman for LCS Correctional Services, the company that runs the private facility.
Harbison said this is the first escape from the facility since LCS took it over from the former management company in 2001. That company had gone bankrupt.
Treviño recalled another escape about five years ago, when a drug smuggler eluded law enforcement officers for 24 hours before his recapture.
The escapees included former McAllen police officer Francisco Meza-Rojas, who was awaiting trial on charges he and his four brothers ran a drug-smuggling operation from Mexico into the area south of Mission. The brothers are charged with nine federal counts, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine and possession with intent to distribute.
Authorities have identified the five other inmates as illegal aliens from the Weslaco area detained on immigration charges. They were Fernando Garza Cruz, Joel Armando Mata Castro, Vicente Garcia Mendiola, Enrique Peña Saenz, and Saul Leonardo Salazar.
Within five to 10 minutes of the escape, authorities had cordoned off a four-mile perimeter around the prison, which sits on Highway 107 in La Villa, Treviño said.
Footprints show the men broke up into three pairs after scrambling under the fence, he said.
One group went north, one east over a canal about a quarter-mile away and a third group went south.
K-9 units traced them all to Highway 107, where the scent went dead.
Authorities believe an unknown person picked the men up in a car on Highway 107 just east of the facility.
Customs & Border Protection is maintaining its usual patrols and staff levels at border checkpoints, spokesman Felix Garza said. Garza said all the men are a clear flight risk to Mexico.
"If we do run across them, and I think we probably will, we will apprehend them," he said.
The search party includes a Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks & Wildlife, the U.S. Marshals Service, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs & Border Protection, the Elsa-Edcouch Police Department and various K-9 units and other local police departments, Treviño said.
They have been interviewing family members of the escapees, as well as all employees of the prison and the assaulted guard.
Treviño stopped short of calling the escape an inside job but said the circumstances were dubious.
"From a law enforcement perspective, it appears to be highly suspicious," he said.
Of Meza-Rojas, Treviño said, "He’s an extremely intelligent individual. I wouldn’t put it above Meza to use these gang members as his muscle and as a vehicle to escape."
The La Villa facility has come under scrutiny before, Magallan said.
"We have arrested other jailers from that facility before," he said. "Years back other jailers had been terminated for taking drugs in drugs, taking bribes."
It was still unclear who made the decision to house Meza-Rojas in a medium security private prison. The other brothers are in Willacy and Karnes county jails, Magallan said. Jesus, the only brother to be released on bond, was initially held at the McAllen Police Department's jail.
Marshals from Bronsville, Laredo and Houston have been called in to help the nine-man Mcallen team. They have also enlisted the help of Mexican police, who now have photos of the inmates.
"We still believe they are in the area," he said. "It’s a possibty that they went to Mexico."
The La Villa school district remains closed today, although businesses and roads in the area are open.
DPS helicopters patrolled the Cowley Sugar House, sugarcane fields to the east of the prison, for hours Tuesday night. But the infrared radar detected nothing.
Miguel Hernandez, who lives near the field, awoke to the sound of helicopters at midnight. He loaded his 22-caliber gun, he said.
Hernandez was eating breakfast and discussing the previous evening’s escapes at a nearby Quik-Mart Tuesday morning with friend Jose Luis Guzman, Jr.
"How can it be so easy for these guys to get out," Guzman said. "We’re worried that one day someone who’s a killer or a truly dangerous person is going to escape, and we’re all going to be at risk.
"The people in La Villa are up in arms," he added. "They want to know why it’s easy for someone to get out. The facility is obviously run in a very, very bad way."
The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s office handled operations Tuesday night, but the U.S. Marshals Service has assumed control of the investigation. They ask anyone with information about the escapees’ whereabouts to call (956) 618-8025
MORE ABOUT PRIVATE PRISONS and ILLEGAL ALIENS
LCS Corrections, owner, LeBlanc, Michael W.
Private prisons are BIG business and big political contributors. The more illegal aliens, the more business.
LeBlanc, Michael W. LCS Corrections Ser. Inc./Vice-Pres $1,000 05/23/2005 ORTIZ FOR CONGRESS COMMITTEE - Democrat
LeBlanc, Michael W LCS Correction Services/CEO $2,000 05/04/2005 RUBEN HINOJOSA FOR CONGRESS - Democrat
Brooks County Detention Center (Fallfurrias, TX) — LCS Corrections immigrant detainee escapes from Brooks County Detention Center; the resulting manhunt involves over 100 officers from the Brooks County Sheriff's Department, Department of Public Safety, Border Patrol, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and the local fire department (2004)
But less than two months later, when the board had shrunk to only three members - just enough for a quorum - it unanimously recommended immediate implementation of the contract. The LeBlancs also run Premier's parent company, LCS Correction Services, which has faced numerous lawsuits and investigations in its work running jails. They ran into legal trouble with a gambling operation on an American Indian reservation. Williamson was fined $100,000 by the National Association of Securities Dealers in the early 1990s and barred from associating with other NASD members.http://www.flpba.org/private