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McAllen attorney gets probation for crashing car into home in DWI case

Photo taken by a witness on the scene.

McALLEN — Two years probation and 24 hours of community service is what a McAllen defense attorney was given as punishment Wednesday for a drunken driving incident that ended with his luxury car plowing into a home.

Adolfo “Al” Alvarez, 55, was sentenced to a Pre-Trial Diversion Program for a DWI charge stemming from a crash back on March 22, 2011, when his car veered off the road and rammed through the bedroom of a family’s home, according to court records.

Alvarez was arrested after he failed to provide a breath or blood sample the night of the crash. Witness accounts at the scene reported that he showed signs of intoxication, including slurred speech and an unsteady balance, records show.

No injuries were involved in the crash as the family was not in the bedroom at the time.

The defense attorney and his lawyers claimed the crash was due to a faulty steering wheel in his 2011 Mercedes-Benz Coupe E550. That model was recalled on Oct. 4, 2010, for power steering system failure, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety website.

Alvarez also faced harassment and assault charges from separate incidents in 2007 and 2011, which played a role in his recent punishment.

In 2007, Alvarez was accused of hitting and pushing a man. About four years later, he was charged with harassing an Alamo man with repeated text messages after the man had accused him of having an affair with his estranged wife, records show.

As part of the diversion program, Alvarez will also have to submit to random alcohol and drug testing. If he violates his probation, he could face up to 180 days in county jail and a $2,000 fine.

Alvarez said Friday that the lack of evidence is the reason he was given probation instead of jail time.

“It was an appropriate conclusion to this pending case,” said Alvarez, who refused to comment further.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra questioned why it took more than three years to sentence Alvarez but expressed relief that it was over.

“At least he didn’t get away with it,” he said.

LORENZO ZAZUETA-CASTRO | STAFF WRITER 

lzazueta@themonitor.com

Congressoinal group calls for Obama to intervene on water with Mexico

Photo by valleymorningstar.com

A bipartisan group of Texas congressional members has sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking for his administration’s intervention in the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico.

The letter states the group is frustrated by Mexico’s lack of commitment to regularly deliver water to the United States as required by the water sharing treaty.

“We are approaching a critical juncture and feel strongly that the matter must be elevated from the IBWC (International Boundary and Water Commission) to the highest levels of the United States government in order to mitigate further harm to the U.S. and avoid detrimental impact to the relationship between our two countries,” a portion of the letter states.

The letter is signed by 35 members of the Texas delegation. On Wednesday, It was sent to the president by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D- Brownsville, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Under the 1944 water sharing treaty between Mexico and the United States, Mexico is to deliver water to the United States in cycles of five years. The current five-year cycle began in October 2010 and ends in October 2015, which means Mexico has until then to deliver the water it owes, officials said.

The total volume Mexico must deliver before the end of the five-year period is 1,750,000 acre-feet — providing there are no exceptional drought conditions in Mexico, officials said.

The letter further states that immediate action is needed by the U.S. State Department and the Obama Administration to resolve the impasse.

By Laura B. Martinez

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com

Planned protests canceled by group’s organizer, cites violent threats

Photo: Screen shot of website

PHARR — Hours before a scheduled protest at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, the group Shut Down All Ports of Entry canceled, citing threats of violence.

According to its website, the group was going to target commercial ports of entry, trying to block traffic coming off the bridges in an attempt to delay or stop commercial cargo from coming into the U.S.

But just hours before the planned protests, Stasyi Barth, the group’s organizer scrapped the plan.

“There has been an unsubstantiated threat of mass violence to attendees, along with very suspicious activity on the Facebook site,” she wrote in an email to media. “These two items are more than enough for me to immediately stop any protest that was going to occur.”

She added: “Your lives, and the lives of our law enforcement, are more important than any protest.”

Barth did not specify what violence was threatened and did not respond to an interview request Saturday.

As of Saturday afternoon, there was no word from the group on if or when the protests would be rescheduled.

LORENZO ZAZUETA-CASTRO |STAFF WRITER

lzazueta@themonitor.com

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Border Patrol to test wearing cameras

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol will begin testing body-worn cameras on agents next month, the head of its parent agency said Thursday, a step toward seeing if the technology should be used in the field as the government seeks to blunt criticism about agents’ use of force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Customs and Border Protection commissioner since March, said a variety of cameras will be tested beginning Oct. 1 at the Border Patrol’s training academy in Artesia, New Mexico.

He didn’t say when or even if cameras will be introduced to the roughly 21,000 agents in the field.

“Putting these into place, as you know, is not only complicated, it’s also expensive,” Kerlikowske said at a news conference. “We want to make sure that we do this right.”

Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief, has moved more aggressively than his predecessors to address complaints that Customs and Border Protection is slow to investigate incidents of deadly force and alleged abuses by agents and inspectors, and that it lacks transparency.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday that he gave Customs and Border Protection authority to investigate possible criminal misconduct by its agents and inspectors. Previously, another agency within Homeland Security — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — investigated such complaints before Customs and Border Protection could.

Kerlikowske said the new authority was “a great step forward” and would result in a more timely and transparent process.

The commissioner also announced the creation of the Integrity Advisory Panel headed by Karen Tandy, former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and New York Police Commissioner William Bratton.

The camera test is a first step toward satisfying activists who have long demanded the technology as a way to keep a check on potential abuses. It is likely to meet resistance from the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing more than 17,000 agents, which has said cameras would be expensive and may cause agents to hesitate when their lives are threatened.

Kerlikowske acknowledged Thursday that cameras raise a host of privacy issues about when they should be turned on and off and said their introduction must be negotiated with the agents’ union.

Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the agents’ union, said the development came as no surprise after the White House said this week that requiring police officers to wear cameras was a potential solution for bridging mistrust between law enforcement and the public.

“We want to make sure these are used to back up agents, not to persecute them,” Moran said Wednesday. “If they’re used correctly by the agency, they will offer an independent account in use-of-force incidents or any type of incident. We do have concerns management would use them to look for administrative violations.”

The announcements came less than a week after Customs and Border Protections’ new internal affairs head Mark Morgan said an initial review of cases involving use of force and alleged misconduct by agents and inspectors since 2009 found 155 that merit further investigation.

In May, Kerlikowske ordered the release of a highly critical Customs and Border Protection-commissioned report that raised questions about the deadly force.

___

Spagat reported from San Diego.

Gov. Rick Perry defends in-state tuition for unauthorized students

File Photo

Gov. Rick Perry Sunday defended the Texas law he signed in 2001 that allows students residing here without legal authorization to pay in-state tuition for public colleges and universities, a provision opposed by both U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

In answer to a question from a University of Texas student at the Texas Tribune Festival, Perry associated himself with comments made Friday night at the festival by George P. Bush, the GOP nominee for land commissioner. Bush said that, “until there’s a sensible alternative that has been presented by anybody else,” he supports keeping the Texas law offering in-state tuition to those who have graduated from a high school or received a GED diploma in Texas, have lived in the state for at least three years and have signed an affidavit affirming they are seeking legal residency.

Said Perry, “We have to remember that the reason we had to address this as a state was because of the federal government’s total and abject failure of securing our border with Mexico, so we don’t have the luxury of doing anything other than addressing this, and in 2001, members of the Legislature debated it, they talked about it, and they came to the conclusion that we had some options and the option they chose was in the best economic interests of the state of Texas,”

“Young people who were here by no fault of their own, and I would suggest in every case that decision wasn’t made by a six-year-old — ‘we’re going to the state of Texas so I can go to the University of Texas’ — but economically what was in the best interests of the state of Texas was to give these young people the opportunity to be givers rather than takers, to be a constructive part of this society, and that’s what we did,” Perry said.

Texas was the first state to enact in-state tuition, passing the bill with only four dissenting votes.

Patrick, who would preside over the Senate if elected lieutenant governor, has vowed to seek its repeal. His Democratic opponent, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, was an original sponsor of the legislation and wants to keep it.

Sen. Wendy Davis, in her one-on-one conversation with Tribune editor-in-chief and CEO Evan Smith on Saturday, said she considered the law a great success, and if she were governor and the Legislature sent her a bill repealing the law, “I would veto it in a heartbeat.” Her Republican rival, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has called the law “noble” but “flawed,” and said it needs to be reformed, but hasn’t spelled out how.

In his appearance at TribFest Saturday, Cruz said that he would not to presume to tell Texas legislators what to do, but that he opposes the law on principle.

“I don’t think taxpayers should be subsidizing the education of people who are here illegally at the expense of American citizens and at the expense of legal immigrants,” said Cruz, a potential presidential rival of Perry’s if both men end up seeking the Republican Party nomination in 2016.

Perry paid a heavy political price for his position on in-state tuition when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, alienating many conservative voters when, at a debate in September 2011, he defended the law, saying, “If you say that we should not educate children who come into our state for no other reason than that they’ve been brought there through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart.”

When Smith, who was Perry’s interlocutor for the hour-long conversation that brought the festival to a close, noted that Perry was booed at the 2011 GOP debate for depicting critics of in-state tuition as “heartless,” Perry said, “that was probably a poor use of the term.”

It is certain to be an issue again if Perry presses ahead with a second campaign for president — a decision he said he would make sometime next year. This time around, Perry said, “I wouldn’t say that they were heartless. I would say I hope that I can explain to you why economically in 2001 this was the best things for the state of Texas to do.”

By Jonathan Tilove - American-Statesman Staff

Border skirmishes: Perry, Cruz and Cornyn vie for leadership on border response

Photo by Jonathan Tilove

Good day Austin:

Compared to events in Gaza and Ukraine, the crisis on Texas’ southern border seems positively benign. But, it’s the crisis we’ve got and it appears that it will be casting a large  – and growing – shadow on politics here in Texas and nationally, with Gov. Rick Perry and Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn playing leading, and contrasting, roles. The fact that Perry and Cruz are both seriously exploring running for president in 2016 adds another layer of intrigue and gamesmanship to the unfolding drama.

To simplify the Perry-Cruz dynamic, the border situation provided Perry with the first opportunity since Cruz’s extraordinary ascent of the last two years to get out from under Cruz’s shadow. Perry masterfully played President Obama’s visit to Texas to his political advantage. But Cruz, not one to let anyone – let alone a potential presidential rival from his home state – steal a march on him on an issue as consequential as this to the Republican base, quickly reasserted himself and, with his ear for distilling every issue down to its simplest essence – Defund Obamacare, Abolish the IRS – filed the Stop Obama’s Amnesty Act. On July 13 it was Perry on Fox News Sunday and Face the Nation talking about the border. This Sunday, it was Cruz on Fox News Sunday, while Perry was in Iowa “pre-campaigning.”

In the meantime, leading tea party voices in Texas were growing restive with Perry’s blaming Obama for what was going and insisting he should act unilaterally instead of waiting on Washington.

At a Capitol press conference last week, JoAnn Fleming of Tyler – head of Grassroots America and chair of the Texas Legislature’s Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee – was joined by other tea party leaders in criticizing Perry for finger-pointing instead of acting, and called on him – and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate to succeed Perry as governor – to immediately deploy the Texas National Guard in the face of an “imminent danger.”

Then, on Friday night, Julie McCarty, president of the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party, did an interview with former Farmers Branch Mayor Tim O’Hare on The Wells Report on 660 AM The Answerin Dallas.

“What we want is for Perry to put the Guard on the border, and everybody says, `Oh no, it’s the president’s job and the federal government needs to fund it.’ But it’s just not going to happen whether we like it or not, it’s not going to happen. We can wish for it all day long, but in the end, we need to just pay for it, suck it up and pay for it. Texas has the money. We have an overage in the state budget.”

McCarty continued: “Is Perry’s phone not constantly off the hook with citizens calling and demanding, `get this done,” so that Perry will finally grow some and do what he needs to do.”

After a short silence, O’Hare replied that McCarty was “preaching to the choir.”

“I’m a Gov. Perry appointee, I have a lot of respect for Gov. Perry, but on this particular issue, he’s finger-pointing, not leading,” O’Hare said

“I think everybody would agree that if Perry would just do this, if he would just send the Guard to the border, he would become first place for president of the United States, the whole country would be applauding him as a hero, and yet all he wants to do is listen to his donors, who are very pro-amnesty,” said McCarty.

This afternoon, Perry, flanked by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Attorney General Abbott, will announce that he is activating the Texas National Guard for border duty.

With word of that, I asked McCarty for her assessment. Her emailed reply:

It is absolutely the right thing for Gov Perry to activate the guard.  I’m very excited to see that he received enough grassroots pressure and has decided to act. The citizens of Texas who made calls and sent messages should be encouraged by this news because it would not have happened without them!  I’m grateful they raised their collective voices when it was necessary — credit and thanks for this progress goes to both Gov Perry AND we the people.  Many grassroots leaders around the state will continue to watch very closely.  It’s a fluid situation and will likely require further action, so we’ll continue to communicate to our Gov about it.

Meanwhile, Sen. Cornyn finds himself in the thankless position of offering a bipartisan compromise solution – with Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat  – in the form of the HUMANE Act.

Here is Cornyn’s office thumbnail description of the act.

·         Improve the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008—treating all unaccompanied migrant children crossing our border with equality under the law, and allowing for voluntary reunification with family, whether they are from Mexico, Central America, or any other country.

 ·         Keep current protections for safe repatriation.

 ·         Allow unaccompanied migrant children who have a claim to remain legally in the United States to make this claim in court before an immigration judge within 7 days of the completion of Health and Human Services screening under the TVPRA of 2008. It authorizes up to 40 new immigration judges for this purpose, and keeps current law in place requiring HHS to make all efforts to secure pro-bono legal counsel for the child.

 ·         Require immigration judges to make a determination as to whether an unaccompanied migrant child is eligible to remain in the United States within 72 hours of making their claim. Children who succeed in their claim will be allowed to remain in the United States in the custody of a sponsor while they pursue their legal remedies. Children who do not successfully make such a claim will be reunited with family in their home country.

 ·         Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide unaccompanied migrant children with protective shelter while they are awaiting their initial hearing in court before a judge.

 ·         Allow access to these expedited court hearings for unaccompanied migrant children who have already been released to sponsors with notices to appear in immigration court.

 ·         Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct FBI fingerprint background checks on any person taking custody of an unaccompanied alien child. Prohibits the Secretary from releasing children to persons convicted of sex offenses and human trafficking.

 ·         Require a plan and provide for additional resources necessary for operational control of our southern border.

Immigration control groups, like the Center for Immigration Studies and Numbers USA, did not like the HUMANE Act at all.

Here’s a Twitter exchange between Cornyn and Mark Krikorian, head of CIS.

 Read more on Statesman.com here. 

By Jonathan Tilove

Joe Straus, Texas House speaker, brushes off challenge from the right

Photo by RODOLFO GONZALEZ

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Saturday he wouldn’t be affected by conservative groups taking aim at his leadership.

Straus, speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival on the University of Texas campus, said a “wealthy guy in Midland and some of his friends” want a speaker they can control. He was referring to West Texas oilman Tim Dunn and Michael Quinn Sullivan, the influential head of Empower Texans, and their allies. That group has hammered Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, for being too moderate and working too closely with Democrats.

“I don’t think that bipartisanship is a four letter word,” Straus said.

Asked about a court battle Sullivan is fighting to avoid registering as a lobbyist, Straus cited a unanimous Texas Ethics Commission vote in July ordering Sullivan to pay a $10,000 fine for failing to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

A writer of a Internet posts and articles for a conservative news website, Sullivan claims he is a journalist and therefore exempt from lobby rules.

Straus faces a challenge for the leadership post from Rep. Scott Turner, a conservative Republican from Frisco with a perfect voting record according to Empower Texans.

Straus also was asked who he might support in 2016 for president. He wouldn’t answer, but said he would give a hint.

“I am a big fan of the Bushes,” Straus said. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is considered a possible candidate.

By Tim Eaton - American-Statesman Staff

Corruption Case Casts Shadow Over Hidalgo County Race

Photo: Texas Tribune 

McALLEN — Hidalgo County voters will elect a new top lawman this November, replacing a former sheriff who was sentenced to five years in prison following a public corruption scandal.

Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, a Democrat, was convicted in July on a federal conspiracy charge after he admitted taking cash from a drug trafficker, but his party’s leaders are confident the seat won’t go to Al Perez, a Republican candidate with three decades of law enforcement experience.

Analysts say that’s because candidates with anything but a “D” by their names are few and far between in the Lower Rio Grande Valley region.

“The corruption is defined more in the context of corrupt politicians” and not Republican versus Democrat, said Dr. Jerry Polinard, a political science professor at the University of Texas-Pan American.

But to label Hidalgo County voters as tolerant of corruption if they vote for another Democrat is also unfair, Polinard said, because the one-party dominance here eliminates a basis for comparison.

Perez will face Democrat Eddie Guerra, the acting sheriff who heads the department of about 800 employees, including about 300 sworn peace officers, and an annual budget of about $55 million. (Guerra also worked as a Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy from 1999 to 2004.) The election will decide who finishes Treviño’s term.

“Anybody that knows me down here knows they can’t associate me with the past administration,” said Guerra, a constable who was appointed interim sheriff in April. “I have a proven track record.”

Perez however, said people are tired of the status quo.

“Our image has been tarnished,” he said. “Yes, we have our share of crime and corruption, but can this be different? Definitely?”

Perez says he identifies as an independent and said he was eligible to run as a Republican because he hadn’t voted in the Democratic primary in several election cycles.  He served in the sheriff’s department for 14 years before retiring in June to run for the head position.

He approached the county’s GOP leaders after learning that the Democrats had already decided on their nominee shortly after Treviño resigned in April, he said. Ten candidates were submitted for consideration, but Perez said the Democrats appeared to have already made their minds up to suppoert Guerra.

As for any ties he has to the old guard under Treviño, Perez said he purposely kept himself out of the loop. Though he heard rumors about an investigation, he chose to mind his own business, he said.

He added that if elected, he would make administrative changes.

He said Guerra has yet to make any significant moves that reflect a commitment to change.

“The old administration is still there with the exception of one commander,” he said. “I am changing the department for the better. I am not a politician, I am a professional law enforcement officer.”

Guerra cites his 2008 election win the constable’s race as proof he can turn around a department. His predecessor, Democrat Andy Rios, was also indicted on theft charges, which were eventually dismissed.

“It was under a dark cloud, and people lost a lot of trust,” he said. “Now they see the constable’s office in a totally different way.”

Guerra’s mention of another scandal in the county’s history reflects the prevalence of public corruption allegations in elections on the border. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor and chair of the government department at the University of Texas at Brownsville, said it doesn’t mean people will stop voting for Democrats.

The pattern doesn’t mean voters condone or don’t notice corruption, she said. Instead, the trend continues because the voters will still identify with the Democratic Party on issues like border security and immigration.

Scandals aside, voters in the area tend to disagree with the GOP playbook that includes the current deployment of the National Guard, which many there consider unnecessary, Correa-Cabrera said.

“They are not changing their position because of a scandal,” she said of Hidalgo County’ voters. “It’s not going to define an election even though it is a big deal.”

Others cite the sheer number of Democratic voters in Hidalgo County.

As of March, there were more than 305,000 registered voters in the sprawling border district; about 47,350 cast ballots in the Democratic primary. That’s compared with the 6,100 who voted in the Republican primary.

Polinard, the UT-Pan American professor, said Hidalgo County is the strongest Democratic area in the state, if not the nation.

“It would be a major upset” if the sheriff’s race didn’t go to the Democrat, he said. “The one upside [for Republicans] is it is an off year and turnout may drop off.” But because the position of sheriff does not include other counties the way a state representative or judge’s seat would, the race is all but decided, he said.

Hidalgo County Democratic Party Chairman Ric Godinez said he expects the Republicans will bring up Treviño’s past to try to associate Democrats with corruption. But he seems unfazed.

He said voters believe the state’s Republican leadership typically ignores the border, especially the Rio Grande Valley. State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte’s candidacy in the lieutenant governor’s race should help encourage voters to punch a straight Democratic ticket, he added. Democrats are also excited about state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and her bid for governor, but Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is more popular, he said.

“She’s Hispanic and been in the Senate longer,” he said. “But that’s not to say we’re not impressed with Senator Davis.”

Van de Putte is taking on Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick in the lieutenant governor’s race, while Davis is running against Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, for governor.

Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Sergio Sanchez said the sheriff’s race is getting the most attention in the area, which bodes well for the party’s chances. What people want to know, he said, is whether voters will have more than one option this year and be able to move on from the past.

“It’s not that they don’t care, but they don’t ask about the courts or the governor’s race. And that says a lot,” he said. “All I hear is, ‘Will I have an option come November?’ Everybody already knows about the corruption, everybody already knows about the shame that’s been brought to the community as a result of the prosecution.”

Men wanted for 2013 DFW cartel slaying arrested in McAllen

Photo courtesy of hubspot.com 

McALLEN — A pair of men wanted in connection with a 2013 North Texas homicide appeared in federal court here Monday morning.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos charged Jesus Ledezma and Jose Luis Cepeda, both 58, with interstate stalking with the intent to kill.

 The May 22, 2013, shooting death of attorney Juan Guerrero Chapa in the posh Fort Worth suburb of Southlake was the first in that city in “more than a decade,” the local CBS News television affiliate reported at the time. The indictment against Ledezma — filed in federal court in the Northern District of Texas in Fort Worth — named the target of the killing as “J.J.G.C.”

Guerrero had worked as an attorney for former Gulf Cartel boss Ociel Cárdenas.

The criminal complaint against the two men said they’d travelled to Southlake “and elsewhere” from Mexico between March 1, 2011, and the date of Guerrero’s homicide.

Investigators filed the indictment July 9, but it remained sealed until after Monday’s hearing.

Both suspects waived their rights to preliminary hearings, and will be transported to the Fort Worth area to resume court proceedings.

The FBI arrested the men, who were booked into the Hidalgo County Jail over the weekend, according to jail records.

A third man — named in jail records only as “John Doe” with a birth year of 1980 — was also arrested by FBI agents and booked into the jail around the same time as Ledezma and Cepeda. It was unclear if his arrest was related to this case.

If convicted of the interstate stalking charge, the men could spend the rest of their lives in federal prison, but the sentencing judge would also have discretion to set a lower sentence. A Texas murder conviction would carry a minimum penalty of life in prison without parole, while capital murder convicts are eligible for the death penalty.

A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in Southlake.

BY JACOB FISCHLER STAFF WRITER

jfischler@themonitor.com

Father and son charged with working $10M pot field

Stock image.

BROWNSVILLE — Federal authorities have charged a Mexican national and his son in connection with what officials have called the largest marijuana-growing operation found in Willacy County.

Miguel Echevarria-Zuniga, 50, and his son Miguel Echevarria-Guizar are charged with possession with intent to distribute about 4.2 tons of marijuana, according to court records.

The men’s fingerprints were found on farm tools and containers found Aug. 14 at the site of the marijuana field off Farm-to-Market Road 490 near Lasara, records show.

Agents also found receipts for items including PVC pipes and insecticide similar to those found at the marijuana field, records show.

Paul Hajjar, Echevarria-Zuniga’s attorney, said prosecutors will present their evidence at a preliminary examination hearing Thursday, adding he believes prosecutors need more evidence to pursue the charges filed Friday.

Agents filed a criminal complaint alleging Echevarria-Zuniga and Echevarria-Guizar “did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with persons known and unknown to unlawfully possess with intent to distribute” the marijuana.

Records state that agents found several items at the marijuana site and a nearby campsite, and fingerprints on those items matched the Echevarrias’ fingerprints.

Purchase receipts for insecticide and PVC pipes, similar to those found at the marijuana field, were found during a search of a warehouse at 5200 Mile 10 Road in Weslaco that Echevarria-Zuniga rented, agents said.

A judge on Thursday arraigned Echevarria-Zuniga on a felony charge of illegal re-entry into the United States on Jan. 19, 2014, after a prior criminal conviction.

Echevarria-Zuniga was sentenced to 19 months on a charge of possession with intent to deliver marijuana in 1989 before he was deported in 1990, records show.

Agents arrested Echevarria-Zungia and Echevarria-Guizar, and 12 immigrants in the country illegally near the marijuana field in Willacy County on Aug. 14.

The Echevarrias claimed Israel Santiago-Guzman, 22, who court records describe as a “brush guide,” had smuggled them and a group of immigrants into the country, which Santiago-Guzman and the immigrants denied.

Santiago-Guzman, who is being held on $25,000 bail, was arraigned Thursday on one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented immigrants and two counts of transporting undocumented immigrants, records show.

Nina Pruneda, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Antonio, said agents seized about 11,500 marijuana plants with a street value of $10 million.

Fernando Del Valle- Staff writer for The Monitor

fdelvalle@valleystar.com