• March 20, 2024

Progreso mayor arrested on federal drug charges

Progreso mayor arrested on federal drug charges
Gerardo “Jerry” Alanis. (CBS 4 News File Photo)

PROGRESO, TEXAS— On Monday morning, officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement apprehended Progreso Mayor Gerardo “Jerry” Alanis, 31, on federal drug trafficking allegations. Alanis stands accused of involvement in a conspiracy linked to the transportation of over 88 pounds of cocaine.

The prosecution of Jerry Alanis is linked to a federal inquiry initiated in 2020, following the apprehension of a former Progreso Independent School District bus driver by Border Patrol with approximately 30 pounds of cocaine. Confronted with the prospect of lengthy imprisonment, the ex-bus driver entered a guilty plea and collaborated with authorities. Subsequently, prosecutors filed charges against seven additional individuals in connection to the case. His brother Francisco “Frank” Alanis, assistant city manager and president of the local school board, was also included in the charges.

“No additional details are being released at this time, as the criminal investigation remains ongoing,” according to a statement released by Homeland Security Investigations, which is part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Alanis, along with the co-defendants, is accused of conspiring to possess over 5 kilograms (approximately 11 pounds) of cocaine with the intent to distribute. Should they be found guilty, they would each be subject to a federal prison sentence of 10 years under the country’s sentencing statutes. Additionally, they could face fines of up to $10 million each.

Homeland Security Investigations arrested Frank Alanis in October 2023, where he pleaded not guilty.

A copy of the superseding indictment was obtained, and the document alleges that Gerardo Alanis and Francisco Javier Alanis smuggled about 58 pounds of cocaine on June 13, 2020 and another 30 pounds of cocaine on Aug. 8, 2020.

In the indictment, prosecutors served notice on the Alanis brothers and their alleged co-conspirators that if they are convicted, the government would seize through forfeiture any money or property connected to the alleged crimes. The property subject to forfeiture includes a gated compound on La Siesta Circle in La Feria, northeast of Progreso, the indictment said.

“It’s just extremely disappointing,” said state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez of Weslaco, “Progreso is full of good people, and they want honest government. They’re devastated because of what’s going on.”

Frank Alanis and Jerry Alanis are part of a political coalition that controls Progreso.

Their ascendancy to power occurred in 2014 subsequent to the admission of guilt by then-Mayor Omar L. Vela and his brother, Michael R. Vela, the former President of the school board, in a case involving public corruption. The Velas allegedly employed a scheme aimed at extorting businesses, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for lucrative contracts with both the city and the school district.

The Alanis brothers mirrored the strategies outlined in the Vela family playbook.

“It seems like it’s the same circus,” said Hidalgo County Precinct 1 Constable Celestino Avila Jr. “All they do is change the clowns.”

Many people in Progreso aren’t happy with the Alanis family, Avila said, but they’re afraid to speak up.

“They have them pretty much by the throat,” Avila said. “They can’t say or do anything.”

Anyone who challenges the Alanis family, which controls the city and the school district, risks retaliation, Avila said, and could end up unemployed.

City Attorney Javier Villalobos said that Jerry Alanis, like every other person charged with a crime, is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

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