Gang member at center of ICE controversy may have had help in recent crime, police say

AUSTIN - A known member of the "Surenos 13" gang, who Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims was released by the Travis County Jail without their knowledge,  has a criminal history dating back more than a decade. 

In 2006, Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero, 33, was arrested in Comal County for prostitution. He served 16 days in jail, then was released.

In 2007, he was arrested for felony theft of a firearm and unlawful carrying of a weapon.  He served six months in jail and was released.

ICE told us on Tuesday, “Mendoza-Caballero was issued a final order of removal by a federal immigration judge Dec. 14, 2009.  He was also convicted in federal court in Arizona for illegally entering the United States.  On July 6, 2012, Mendoza-Caballero was also convicted of illegally re-entering the United States after having been deported.  He has been previously removed four times; his most recent removal was in 2013.”

This latest arrest comes from an assault with injury charge.  The alleged crime happened June 16, 2006.  A warrant for arrest was issued January 31, 2017.  The warrant was executed June 16, one year after the reported incident.

RELATED | Sheriff's office: ICE email about known gang member missed due to 'clerical error'

In the warrant for arrest, Austin Police say Julio Mendoza and his brother, Pedro, worked in construction.

The contractor listed in the affidavit, "Central Texas Drywall", told KVUE the brothers were subcontractors.

The victim, Delfino Vaca-Jaimez, told officers the brothers got angry due to an argument over the quality of work.

The warrant affidavit says Pedro tried to stab Vaca-Jaimez with a keyhole saw.  It’s described as “a narrow pointed fine-tooth handsaw used especially for cutting curves of short radius.”

The affidavit says Julio started to hit Vaca-Jaimez after his brother threw the first punch.

An employee of Central Texas Drywall, Uriel Alvarado, defended the victim.

Alvarado told Vaca-Jimez to run as he grabbed the knife.  Alvarado said in the document Vaca-Jimez was "really rattled by the hits so he was there, here and there, he wasn’t fully conscious, he was bleeding everywhere (sic)."

The court document says the brothers ran away before police arrived.

The KVUE Defenders could not find any record of arrest for Pedro.

Mendoza-Caballero is facing felony charges in U.S. District Court for illegally re-entering the United States after being deported, and is in the custody of U.S. Marshals. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

KVUE reached out to ICE about the subcontractor who is accused of hiring someone who was in the country illegally.

ICE's response is posted below:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed an immigration detainer accompanied by a Warrant of Removal (Form I-205), with Travis County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) notifying the county of ICE’s intent to take into custody Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero, 33, from Mexico, a criminal alien gang member who had been deported four times previously. However, TCSO declined the detainer, despite being made aware of Mendoza-Caballero’s criminal history and gang ties. Upon declination of the detainer by TCSO, ICE asked TCSO to reconsider its decision to decline the detainer, again emphasizing Mendoza-Caballero’s criminal history and gang ties. However, despite ICE’s request, TCSO failed to notify ICE of Mendoza-Caballero’s impending release which would have afforded ICE the opportunity to detain and remove this dangerous criminal alien.

TCSO ultimately released this criminal alien to the streets, thereby potentially compromising the safety of the community it has sworn to serve and protect. Providing proper release notification to ICE gives the agency a specific time and place that an individual will be released from law enforcement custody. This allows ICE time to allocate appropriate resources in a responsible fashion. That information was not conveyed to ICE when TCSO declined the detainer, thus denying us the opportunity to take custody of this dangerous gang member.

Detainers are legally authorized requests, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely, to continue to maintain custody of an alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes. Pursuant to ICE policy, all ICE detainers contain a completed probable cause statement and are submitted with an accompanying administrative arrest warrant or warrant of removal depending upon the circumstances of the individual case. In this case, ICE provided a Warrant of Removal with the detainer.

Depending on the alien’s criminal history, an alien who illegally reenters the United States, after having been previously removed, has committed a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

ICE’s overall concern is for the safety and welfare of this nation’s citizens. ICE operations improve public safety by removing criminal aliens from the streets, and from the country.”

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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