Progreso mayor accused of storing, packaging narcotics in middle school

Progreso mayor accused of storing, packaging narcotics in middle school
3 months 3 weeks 5 days ago Saturday, March 23 2024 Mar 23, 2024 March 23, 2024 3:27 PM March 23, 2024 in News - Local

A federal agent testified in court that Progreso Mayor Gerardo Alanis stored and packaged narcotics at the school he worked.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Pablo Barrera also testified that over $720,000 in cash was found hidden in the home of Alanis’ mother.

Alanis was arrested on March 18 and charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, and two counts of conspiracy to distribute nearly 88 pounds of cocaine.

The mayor pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains in federal custody after U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Betancourt declined to set a bond for him.

Alanis’ arrest is linked to a drug trafficking investigation that also netted the arrest of his brother — Progreso Assistant City Manager and Progreso school board Trustee Francisco Javier Alanis. 

Francisco was arrested in October 2023 and accused of being involved in a drug trafficking scheme from January 2020 to March 2022.

RELATED STORY: Progreso school board president arrested on drug trafficking charges

At his Thursday hearing, Barrera testified that investigators went to Dorothy Thompson Middle School to search for Alanis at his place of work.

Investigators didn’t find Alanis there, but they did find what was described as bags that are “similar” to the ones used to package and transport narcotics at his office, Barrera said.

“The packaging materials matched the description of those used to package narcotics at the school as described by individuals cooperating with the government,” Alanis’ detention order stated.

Investigators were told by campus personnel that Alanis was not at work because he was attending a funeral, but agents noted that his vehicle was seen driving “erratically” across Progreso, Barrera testified.

Agents then went to the home of Maria Alanis — the mother of the Gerardo and Francisco — where they found three safes containing over $722,000 in cash.

Maria said the money belonged to Francisco, Barrera said.

The investigation is linked to the August 2020 arrest of Jose Rosbel Salas, who was caught with 30 pounds of cocaine hidden in his truck at the Sarita checkpoint.

Rosbel, a former bus drive with the Progreso school district, pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking charges in November 2023, and is cooperating with authorities. 

A total of eight people have been arrested in connection with the investigation.

At his Thursday hearing, Alanis’ defense attorney said the mayor willingly surrendered his passport to show he’s not planning to leave the country.

That wasn’t enough to convince Judge Betancourt.

“Gerardo Alanis was using a public school in the United States to traffic drugs,” Betancourt said at the hearing before denying bond for Alanis.

Alanis’ next federal court hearing is set for April 30.

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