Seven Former GEO Employees Plead Guilty in Federal Texas Private Jail Bribery Scheme
On July 6, 2021, Veronica Ortega, 45, a former medical assistant at the GEO-owned and -operated East Hidalgo Detention Center pleaded guilty to bribery after admitting she received cash to smuggle marijuana into the jail. She was the seventh GEO employee to plead guilty to the charges presented in federal indictments following a joint U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, and U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General investigation into bribery and drug smuggling at the jail.
The 1,300-bed jail is used to hold people in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Marshals, and other federal agencies. Notably, it held Erick Alan “Cachorro” Torres Davila, who was arrested along with his stepfather, Guillermo “Don Gio” Morales, as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation targeting the Gulf Cartel. Although they pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in 2018, they were held in the jail awaiting sentencing for three years.
Former GEO guard Erasmo Loya confessed to providing Torres Davila cocaine between November 2016 and June 2019, before pleading guilty. Former GEO guard Jhaziel Loredo and former GEO commissary officer Jayson Catlan also pleaded guilty to the federal charges.
Former GEO guard Domingo Gonzalez Hernandez admitted being bribed with cash, a gift card and a Chevrolet truck before pleading guilty and receiving a six month prison sentence. Former GEO guard Amber Marie Estrada admitted having received cash and a horse before pleading guilty and being sentenced to 27 months in prison. Former GEO cook supervisor Brenda Fuentes admitted to performing oral sex on a prisoner and received a one-year-and-one-day sentence after pleading guilty.
Ortega was the last of the seven to plead guilty. She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.