Search warrant details investigation of ex-Constable Barrientes Vela, 3 members of administration
Texas Rangers warrant details investigation
SAN ANTONIO – Former Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela and three members of her administration are under investigation for official oppression, tampering with evidence and felony perjury, according to a search warrant obtained Tuesday by the KSAT 12 Defenders.
The 24-page document filed by the Texas Rangers confirms that Barrientes Vela and her staff have been under investigation since early May, months before her Northwest Side offices were raided by the FBI and the Texas Rangers.
Named in the warrant as suspects are Barrientes Vela; Captain Marc Garcia, who was demoted to deputy and placed on leave after Barrientes Vela was removed from office; Chief Deputy Anthony Castillo, who was fired hours before Barrientes Vela left office; and Lieutenant Jeremy Miner, who was sworn in under Barrientes Vela's replacement. A Precinct 2 spokesman confirmed Tuesday evening that Miner was at work when the warrant was made public, but was quickly stripped of his credentials, escorted off property and placed on administrative leave.
Castillo, meanwhile, has launched a 2020 campaign for Precinct 2 Constable.
KSAT reached an attorney for Barrientes Vela by phone on Tuesday, but he said he would provide a comment later.
According to the search warrant, the Texas Rangers initial investigation focused on the April arrest of Leonicio Moreno, a deputy constable who filed paperwork to run against Barrientes Vela in 2020. Moreno also filed federal employment complaints against Barrientes Vela and the Precinct 2 Constable's office.
Following those complaints, he was charged with aggravated perjury, a felony, and was taken into custody by Precinct 2 deputies. Moreno told KSAT that the charges were a "misuse of power" by Barrientes Vela and an attempt by her to humiliate and intimidate him after he filed the complaints.
Prosecutors dropped the charge hours after his arrest. Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said he didn't believe any criminal violation had occurred.
The search warrant cites KSAT 12 reporting, including Moreno being held in custody longer than he should have been in order for media to get footage of his arrest.
The Ranger who wrote the warrant stated that Precinct 2 personnel have so far failed to hand over reports related to Moreno's arrest and subsequent handling while in custody.
The warrant also states that the investigative report used to charge Moreno lacked pertinent documentation and did not factually support a claim from Precinct 2 personnel that Moreno's EEOC complaint had hindered the agency's ability to perform its duties.
Garcia, when questioned by the Rangers, said he suggested that the case be forwarded to the district attorney's office for review. Instead, according to Garcia, Barrientes Vela said "we need something to happen now" and to move forward with arresting Moreno.
The search warrant lists at least 74 items seized or inventoried by the Rangers and FBI on Sept. 23, including cell phones, memory cards, hard drives, incident reports, personnel files for Moreno, and personnel files for the four people under investigation.
Also seized in the raid was a "counseling report form" titled "shred documents related to Rodriguez Park."
The search warrant outlines an incident at Rodriguez Park on Easter Sunday in which a man reported being "harassed" by Barrientes Vela during a party with his family. The man had rented a pavilion from the city, but Barrientes Vela was at the pavilion with her family when he arrived.
The man provided documentation of the reservation to park officials, who forced the former constable to move to a different spot. But Barrientes Vela returned and asked the man to pay $500 for "security." Ultimately, he paid $300 "because he felt intimidated by (Barrientes Vela) and (Castillo)," the search warrant states.
Barrientes Vela was replaced by county officials on Oct. 9 after she announced to KSAT that she would run for sheriff as her offices were being raided. That announcement triggered the state's resign-to-run law.
Her replacement took over this month and Barrientes Vela has taken the first official step to launch her sheriff campaign for 2020.
WATCH A VIDEO TIMELINE OF SOME OF THE INCIDENTS:
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