County Attorney Press Releases

Local Attorneys Offer Free Assistance To Execute Advance Healthcare Directives (Medical Wills)

El Paso County Attorney's Office and the University Medical Center of El Paso, along with other community organizations, will celebrate National Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16) with two public events highlighting the importance of advance healthcare decision-making.

On Tuesday April 16 and on Saturday April 20, 2013, volunteers from our organizations will be providing information and forms to individuals interested in talking to family, friends, and healthcare providers, about their medical wishes. During the events licensed attorneys will provide free assistance on how to execute advance directives (Medical Power of Attorney and Medical or "living" Wills). 

The kick-off event is scheduled for Tuesday April 16, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. in the lobby of the University Medical Center, at 4815 Alameda. Following the kick-off, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., local attorneys will be offering free assistance regarding advance care planning and advance directive forms.

The second event will be held on Saturday April 20, 2013 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.at Bassett Place Mall, 6101 Gateway Blvd. West. Again, local attorneys will be offering free assistance regarding advance care planning and advance directive forms.  

Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals, and to avoid confusion later on.

A Directive to Physicians or Living Will tells how you feel about care intended to sustain life. You can accept or refuse medical care. There are many issues to address, including:

  • The use of dialysis and breathing machines
  • If you want to be resuscitated if breathing or heartbeat stops
  • Tube feeding
  • Organ or tissue donation
  • Blood transfusions

A Medical Power of Attorney is a document that names your health care proxy. Your proxy is someone you trust to make health decisions if you are unable to do so.

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal explained that living wills and medical powers of attorney are two very important tools that allow an individual to participate in future medical care decisions even if they become incapacitated.

"These legal documents protect your right as a patient to accept or decline life-saving medical care even when you cannot speak for yourself. Although these documents are appropriate for end-of-life scenarios, we recommend that every adult have an advanced directive," Bernal said.

"Every year our office promotes the use of advance directives because we want fewer families struggling with making difficult medical decisions in the emergency room when they are suffering from the emotional stress of someone's illness," Bernal concluded.

Individuals interested in getting the Directive to Physicians and Medical Power of Attorney forms can download them by visiting the County Attorney's web page at www.epcounty.com/ca. The forms are available in both English and Spanish.

For more information about National Healthcare Decision Day, please visit http://www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org/.

WHO:       Assistant County Attorney Edward Sosa

WHAT:     2013 National Healthcare Decisions Day Press Conference

WHEN:     Tuesday April 16, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE:  University Medical Center, 4815 Alameda

2013 NHDD Press Release.pdf

Advance Directives English.pdf

Socorro Resident Arrested For Allegedly Dumping Solid Waste On Neighbor’s Property

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the arrest of a Socorro resident who has been charged with violating the Texas Health and Safety Code by illegally dumping solid waste in Socorro, Texas.

According to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, 58 year-old Victor Manuel Villanueva is charged with two counts of illegal dumping of more than 500 but less than 1,000 pounds, in violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code § 365.012. The offense is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

"The illegal dumping of solid waste and household trash continues to be a serious problem in the unincorporated areas of El Paso County," said El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal.

"Besides affecting the health, safety and quality of life of the families, illegal dumping costs taxpayers thousands of dollars every year in investigation, prosecution, and clean-up costs," Bernal concluded.

The penalty for individuals found guilty of illegal dumping ranges from a fine of up to $10,000, to up to 2 years in jail, or both.

To report illegal dumping or other environmental crimes call your local law enforcement agency:  911 if you see it happening; the Environmental Hotline at 1-888-6EL-PASO, El Paso Police Dept. at 832-4400, or El Paso Sheriff's Dept. at 546-2280.

The El Paso City's Citizen Collection Stations operate Tuesday - Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Users are required to show a copy of the most recent water bill and an identification. The collection stations accept household hazardous waste, but not construction and demolition debris. The sites are located at:

  • Northeast: 4501 Hondo Pass
  • Westside: 121 Atlantic at Doniphan
  • Central: 2492 Harrison at Alabama
  • South: 4200 Delta
  • Lower Valley 9000 Escobar at Zaragoza

For more information contact El Paso County Attorney's Environmental Prosecutor Patsy López at (915) 546-2050.

Villanueva Arrest Press Release.pdf

Remodeler Sentenced To Jail For Engaging In Deceptive Business Practices

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the sentencing of a 48-year-old East El Paso resident accused of engaging in Deceptive Business Practices.

On March 13, 2013, Adrian Zamarripa, owner of “A to Z Remodeling”, pled guilty in three Deceptive Business Practice cases before County Court at Law #4 Judge Alex Gonzalez. Zamarripa was sentenced to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

The first case involved a victim who paid the Defendant over $100,000 in advance to remodel his home, but the work was never finished. Since some services were delivered, it was determined that the amount of restitution due was just over $75,000. The Defendant repaid the victim $20,500, but thereafter failed to make any additional payments. After pleading guilty in this case, Zamarripa was sentenced to 365 days in jail and a $4,000 fine.

In the second case, the victim paid Zamarripa more than $18,000 to remodel her home; however, the job was never completed. In this case Judge Gonzalez sentenced Zamarripa to 365 days in jail and a $4,000 fine.

In the third case, the victim paid the Defendant $5,000 to remodel her home and, again, failed to do so. In this case Zamarripa was sentenced to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Zamarripa won’t begin serving this sentence until he completes the first two sentences.

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal expressed her satisfaction on the outcome of the case. “As a prosecutor, one of my priorities has always been to obtain as much restitution as possible for the victims of deceptive merchants. However, this is not always possible. The victims in these cases will never recover in full their hard-earned money, but at least they got some justice through the court system,” Bernal said. Bernal explained that this case illustrates how difficult it is to recover money for victims of unscrupulous merchants.  “Consumers interested in remodeling their homes need to investigate the reputation of the contractors and be very cautious when paying money up front. We recommend the public not pay the complete amount of the contract until after the job is finished, and the homeowner is satisfied with the quality of the work,” Bernal concluded.   In addition to the Better Business Bureau, residents interested in investigating the background of a prospective contractor can look up their criminal and civil case histories by visiting the County’s website at www.epcounty.com/records.  

Residents who might have fallen victims of fraud or deceptive business practices are asked to contact the Criminal Section of the County Attorney's Office at 546-2050.

Zamarripa Remodeler Sentenced Press Release.pdf

Unscrupulous Remodeler Receives Time In Jail For Engaging In Deceptive Practices

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the sentencing of an El Paso resident accused of engaging in Deceptive Business Practices.

On February 26, 2013, 35-year-old Jesus Cruz pled guilty to one count of committing a Deceptive Business Practice, a crime punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $4,000. In addition, Cruz admitted to violating the terms of probation in another Deceptive Business Practice case.  

In the new case, the victim paid Cruz $4,000 in advance to remodel his home. The State alleged that the repairs were never delivered. In the older case, Cruz was placed on probation and ordered to pay the homeowner more than $800, but even then failed to do so. In both cases, the Court sentenced the Defendant to 300 days in jail. 

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal expressed her satisfaction on the outcome of the case.

"My office tries to protect El Paso consumers from unscrupulous contractors and con-artists. This case is another example of a legal resource available to bring justice to the victims of El Paso County," Bernal said. 

The El Paso County Attorney's Office recommends residents who are planning on doing renovations or improvements to their homes, to do some homework before hiring anyone. It is highly recommended to first check the contractor's references and business record with the Better Business Bureau and with our office.

Homeowners can also look up the criminal and civil case histories of prospective contractors on the County's website at www.epcounty.com/records.

The El Paso County Attorney's Office warns consumers against paying out large down payments and only if necessary, scheduling ‘progress payments'- periodic payments made only after designated portions of work have been successfully completed.

"Consumers must be very cautious when paying money up front. Once the consumer has given money to an unscrupulous contractor, it is very difficult for us to get the money back even after the Defendant has pled guilty and been placed on probation," Bernal said.

"We recommend the public not pay the complete amount of the contract until after the job is finished, and the homeowner is satisfied with the quality of the work," Bernal concluded. 

Residents who might have fallen victims of fraud or deceptive business practices are asked to contact the Criminal Section of the County Attorney's Office at 546-2050.

# # #

Cruz Remodeler Sentenced Press Release.pdf

El Paso County Unveils Residential Construction Inspection Program For Unincorporated Areas Of The County

Program will promote safer and better built houses

El Paso County Judge Verónica Escobar and State Representative Marisa Márquez today announced the implementation of a Residential Construction Inspection program in the unincorporated areas of the County. The main purpose of the program is to provide residents with information regarding the quality of residential construction prior to making a purchase by requiring builders to have the homes inspected.

Texas law does not currently give County governments general authority to implement building codes for private residential structures. As a result, individuals interested in buying homes in the unincorporated areas have been making a decision to purchase their home without really knowing the quality of the construction.

"In the last year we have seen a tremendous growth of residential construction in the unincorporated areas of the County.  Projections indicate that over the next 15 years between 11,000 and 12,000 new single family homes are planned to be developed in the unincorporated areas of El Paso County" said El Paso County Judge Verónica Escobar. "By implementing this inspection program, we are giving residents an important tool that will help them make better decisions about whether to buy a property, and to protect their investment," Escobar concluded.

State Representative Marisa Márquez, who in 2009 was instrumental in getting House Bill 2833 approved in the Texas Legislature, said the implementation of this Texas law will assist county residents in having access to safer and healthier living conditions. "With this inspection registration program, families will have information to know whether or not their new home or construction was inspected for basic building code compliance and whether the home meets the minimum code requirements," Márquez said.

Implementation of the Residential Construction Building Inspection program will begin on January 1, 2012, and will be run by the El Paso County Public Works Department. The program applies to builders of new residential housing (single family homes or duplexes), or builders of an addition to an existing home (if it increases the square footage or value by more than 50%) in unincorporated areas of the County.

The builder/contractor or the owner of the property will be required to provide notice of a construction project prior to beginning the project. The program also requires them to hire a third party inspector to conduct inspections during 3 different stages of the construction:

  • During the foundation stage
  • During the framing and mechanical system stage
  • At the completion of the project.

The builder/contractor will have to submit the results of the inspections to the El Paso Public Works department. Failure to disclose the results of the inspections to El Paso County could result in sanctions, such as referral to a state agency for an enforcement action, filing of a civil lawsuit in state court, or filing of criminal charges (a class "C" misdemeanor).

The complete details of the program and required forms, both in English and Spanish, will be available on the website of the El Paso County's Public Works Department, at http://www.epcounty.com/publicworks. For more information, please call (915) 546-2015.      

# # #

Residential Construction Inspection Press Release.pdf 

Residential Construction Inspection Program Details (Q&A).pdf

Residential Construction Inspection Program Details (Q&A) Spanish.pdf

El Paso Assistant County Attorney Appointed To National Environmental Advisory Committee
The Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Lisa P. Jackson has appointed El Paso Assistant County Attorney Cristina Viesca-Santos to EPA’s 12-member Governmental Advisory Committee. The committee advices the EPA’s Administrator on a broad range of environmentally related strategic, scientific, technological, regulatory and economic issues to be addressed in the implementation and elaboration of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). Committee members serve two-year terms as representatives of state, local and tribal governments. Ms. Viesca-Santos will be representing local governments in the committee. Assistant County Attorney Viesca-Santos was selected to the board for her knowledge of environmental issues facing local governments along the US-Mexico Border. Since November 2000, Ms. Viesca-Santos has served as the Environmental Prosecutor in El Paso County. Under her leadership, El Paso County created the first Environmental Court in the state of Texas. “I feel very honored and privileged to have been nominated and selected for this important task,” said Viesca-Santos. “I will endeavor to bring to light environmental issues we face in our border region as the Commission for Environmental Cooperation works with Mexican Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources and Canadian Environment Minister who are committed to greening the North American Economy,” Viesca Santos concluded. The appointment period runs from October 22, 2012 to October 2014. 

# # #

About the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC):

As environmental issues continue to be at the forefront of the North American integration process, the U.S. Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) provides a valuable avenue for the public input. Arising from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the GAC is charged with providing advice on a broad range of environmental and economic issues. The committee helps shape U.S. policies that improve the environment and health conditions of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The GAC is composed of 12 members selected from state, local and tribal governments.

Origin:

The U.S. GAC was created in 1994 by executive order, as part of the United States Federal Implementation of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). Article 18 of the NAAEC authorizes the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to each convene a national advisory committee. Since its inception, the committee has proven to be a valuable asset in the development of U.S. policies on trade and environment. The committee produces letters of advice and reports on a periodic basis.

On the web:

http://www.epa.gov/ofacmo/gac/

EPA Nomination Press Release.pdf

 

More Foster/Adoptive Families Needed In El Paso To Assist Neglected And Abused Children

The city of El Paso currently is experiencing a shortage of foster/adoptive families available to help neglected, abused or abandoned children. As of last month, in El Paso there were 96 children ready for adoption. Even more pressing is the need for foster parents. Just last year Child Protective Services (CPS) in El Paso investigated more than 5,300 cases of abuse/neglect, and 621 children were placed in foster care.

In an effort to recruit more foster and adoptive families in El Paso, several agencies and organizations that work with abused and neglected children are hosting the 2012 CARE Adoption Conference. The conference will be held on Wednesday November 14, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Region XIX Education Services Center, located at 11670 Chito Samaniego.

The purpose of the conference is twofold:

  • To educate parents and professionals who work with foster/adoptive kids about current trends and approaches to deal with children's needs.
  • To recruit more foster and adoptive homes for local abused and neglected children.

During the conference interested families will understand how simple it is the process of adopting a child. They will also receive information about the financial assistance the government offers to help pay for some of the expenses of the child.

Attendees at this conference will be able to participate in breakout sessions where they will have the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with current foster parents.

The event also provides professional training to individuals who work with abused children by presenting experts on complex needs of vulnerable children. For more information on the training sessions, please see the attached program.

Both the conference and professional seminar are free and open to the public. Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available.

The Professional Seminar portion of the conference runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The foster/adoption information sessions run from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

WHO:       CARE Coalition

WHAT:    2012 C.A.R.E. Conference and Professional Seminar

WHEN:     Wednesday November 14, 2014, from 8 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Region XIX Education Services Center
                   11670 Chito Samaniego

INFO:       Jose Alamillo, (915) 740-8879

# # #

2012 CARE Conference Press Release.pdf

2012 CARE Flyer.pdf

2012 Environmental Summit “Eco Out-Reach El Paso”

EL PASO - The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Senator José Rodríguez (D-El Paso), and El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal will host the 2012 Environmental Summit "Eco-Outreach El Paso" on Friday, October 12, 2012, at the El Paso Marriott Hotel, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The yearly summit brings together government agencies, businesses, students, non-profit organizations, political leaders, and neighborhood associations to discuss environmental challenges facing our community.

The summit also provides the public accessible information on environmental and conservation issues.

Some of the topics to be discussed at this year's summit include enforcement of environmental crimes by law enforcement agencies, the development of "Neighborhood Watch" programs in the colonias to fight illegal dumping, and the impact of city ordinances prohibiting the use of plastic bags.

In addition, the City of El Paso will be presenting its new environmental projects: the small business recycling program, and the compost and mulching initiative.

The first Environmental Summit was held in 2000, hosted by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and the El Paso County Attorney's Office.  With a mere 100 attendees, the summit allowed participants to identify several environmental issues affecting El Paso. "Champions" were then selected to work with groups to find potential solutions to those issues.

Twelve years later the Environmental Summit is strong, attracting over 400 attendees, addressing new issues and showcasing environmental pride of individuals, groups, businesses and schools.

Successes have resulted from the Summits, to include:

  • Five (5) Citizen Collection Centers throughout El Paso.
  • The creation of the first Environmental Court in the State of Texas, with a dedicated environmental prosecutor and judge.
  • First ever Liquid Waste Ordinance, Rule 15, which is now part of El Paso Water Utility's Fats, Oils & Grease (FOG) program.
  • Planning and participation in other organizations' community clean ups and tire amnesty days.
  • A community awareness campaign to educate residents on how to report environmental crimes.

The event will be free and open the public. Registration is required. To RSVP, please contact Gina Posada at (915) 834-4962, or go to http://www.texasenvirohelp.org/.

WHAT:     2012 Environmental Summit "Eco-Outreach El Paso.

WHEN:     Friday, October 12, 2012 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

WHERE:  El Paso Marriott Hotel, 1600 Airway Blvd (Map)       

# # #

2012 Environmental Summit Press Release.pdf

Unveiling Of Mural Created Under Program That Employs Art To Rehabilitate Teens

On Friday September 21, 2012, teens under the jurisdiction of the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department (JPD), along with renowned painter Emanuel Martínez, will unveil murals they created at the Judge Enrique H. Peña Juvenile Justice Center.

The two murals were sponsored by the Emanuel Project, a nationally recognized program that uses art to rehabilitate teens.

Officials with the Juvenile Probation Department, Juvenile Referees, District Judges, and administrators from the Delta Academy (EPISD) are expected to participate in the official unveiling of the murals.

WHO:       JPD Teens and Muralist Emanuel Martínez.

WHAT:     Official Unveiling of Emanuel Project Murals.

WHEN:     Friday September 21, 2012, at 2:00 p.m.

WHERE:  Judge Enrique H. Peña Juvenile Justice Center

6400 Delta Dr. El Paso, Tx. 79905

# # #

Emanuel Project Mural Press Advisory.pdf

Emanuel Project Mural Unveiling Press Release.pdf

Mural Concepts.pdf

El Paso County Sues Banks Associated With National Real Estate Registry Known As “MERS”

Suit alleges defendants unlawfully avoided payment of millions of dollars in recording fees

El Paso County, along with nine other Texas counties, has filed a lawsuit against national financial institutions associated with Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc., a corporation commonly known as MERS.

MERS is a "private national electronic registry" created by the defendant banks in order to circumvent recording mortgages in the public land records.  The lawsuit alleges that MERS is a fraudulent scheme that misrepresented the need to record mortgage assignments, and that the defendants used MERS to avoid paying millions of dollars in recording fees to the County.

According to El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, "Defendants have operated MERS in a manner designed to unlawfully transfer interests in mortgages while avoiding payment of recording fees to counties.  As part of the MERS scheme, the defendants have misled investors and the general public regarding the need for properly recording mortgage conveyances."

According to the counties, they will not know the full extent of their damages until the defendants reveal how many transactions they failed to record with each county.  However, the damages to El Paso County are estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

The lawsuit, filed on August 2, 2012, in a federal district court in Austin, Texas, will be litigated on behalf of the plaintiffs by the law firms of Ted B. Lyon & Associates and Blume, Faulkner, Skeen & Northam, PLLC.

Other Texas counties that have joined the litigation are Cass County, Hidalgo County, Kaufman County, Navarro County, Panola County, Rusk County, Smith County, Starr County and Webb County.

The defendants are: The Bank Of New York Mellon; Bank of America Corporation; Chase Home Mortgage Corporation of the Southeast; Citimortgage, Inc.; HSBC Finance Corporation; Merrill Lynch Credit Corporation; Nationwide Advantage Mortgage Company; Suntrust Mortgage, Inc.; United Guaranty Corporation; Washington Mutual Bank; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; Deutsche Bank, A.G.; U.S. Bank, N.A.; J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.; HSBC Bank USA, N.A.; and La Salle Bank, N.A.

No court hearings have been set on the case yet.

For more details about the lawsuit, please contact attorney James D. Blume at (214) 373-7788.

# # #

MERS Lawsuit Press Release.pdf

MERS Lawsuit.pdf

“Project Future” Interns Complete Intensive Training Program at El Paso County Offices

            On Friday July 27, 2012, El Paso County will host a graduation ceremony for 13 young adults who participated in this year's "Project FUTURE" internship program.

            The program was created at the beginning of the year by the El Paso Women's Bar Association to assist "aged-out" foster care youth get their futures on a path to success. 

"Aged-out" foster care youth are young adults who leave the managing conservatorship of DFPS/foster care system at the age of 18 (or later under certain circumstances) and are not adopted or returned to their parents. These youth face the challenges of work, higher education and daily life without a support system. Lacking a stable support system and being ill- equipped to face the challenges of independent living, these youth face a higher risk of incarceration, homelessness, unemployment, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse.

            A key component of "Project FUTURE" is an internship program in law-related County offices. The program seeks to provide not only a great work experience but also to expose the youth to positive and stable influences in order to assist them in developing a goal-oriented perspective with respect to their future.

This summer 13 former foster care youths were selected to participate in the 6-week paid internships. They were assigned to the following County departments:

  • County Attorney's Office
  • District Attorney's Office
  • County Clerk's Office
  • District Clerk's Office
  • Human Resources Department
  • 65th District Court
  • 327th District Court
  • 120th District Court
  • Mental Health Support Services

Interns will be honored for their participation in the program with a Completion Ceremony from 12:00-1:00 on the 3rd Floor gallery, behind the elevators (near CASA). 

WHO:                 Project FUTURE Interns

WHAT:               Graduation ceremony for the internship program

WHEN:               Friday July 27, 2012 at 12:00 p.m.

WHERE:            El Paso County Courthouse, 3rd floor gallery 500 E. San Antonio

      # # #

Project Future Graduation Press Release.pdf

 

First Attendance Summit To Address Truancy Problems At Local Schools
            In an effort to fight truancy in El Paso schools and its underlying impact in juvenile delinquency, today the El Paso County Anti-Truancy Task Force is hosting its first Attendance Summit.             The summit brings together school administrators and other educators from all school districts in the county to analyze and seek solutions to improving student attendance in El Paso schools.                                   In addition to discussing attendance concerns and truancy issues, summit attendees will learn about truancy court procedures, juvenile delinquency in El Paso, and juvenile diversion programs.             More than 400 stakeholders from the El Paso, Ysleta, Socorro, Anthony, Fabens, San Elizario and Tornillo Independent School Districts are expected to participate. 

            The event will feature Dr. Berk, a licensed psychologist and expert in working with children, adolescents, and families. Also featured is attorney Jose Martin, partner with the school law firm of Richards and Lindsay & Martin in Austin, Texas. Mr. Martin’s practice focuses exclusively on disabilities issues and litigation affecting the schools, including special education. Sessions will also be conducted by the County and District Attorney’s offices regarding truancy court procedures, juvenile delinquency in El Paso.

 Y.I.S.D. Associate Superintendent Dr. Pauline Dow explained this summit is important because “it has the potential for increasing student attendance through a unified county-wide approach, and significantly lowering the incidences of truancy.”              El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said fighting truancy is important because it can have an impact in the well-being of the community. “It has been demonstrated that truancy is one of the early-warning signs that youths potentially are headed for delinquent activity or social isolation,” Bernal said.                      The 2012 Attendance Summit is taking place today from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Ysleta I.S.D. Central Offices Atrium, 9600 Sims Drive.             For more information, please contact YISD Associate Superintendent Dr. Pauline Dow, at (915) 203-3498.  WHO:       El Paso County Anti-Truancy Task ForceWHAT:     2012 Attendance SummitWHEN:     Thursday June 14, 2012, 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.WHERE:  YISD Central Offices Atrium9600 Sims Drive, El Paso, TX 79925  # # #

Anti-Truancy Summit Press Release.pdf

Inauguration Of The New Juvenile Diversion E.M.P.O.W.E.R. Program

On Wednesday May 9, 2012, the Juvenile Probation Department will be launching its new E.M.P.O.W.E.R. program (Encouraging More Positive Opportunities With Empathy and Respect), which will focus on diverting juvenile cases involving minors with mental illnesses.

Additionally, the E.M.P.O.W.E.R. program seeks to provide engagement to long-term treatment services to youth with serious mental illnesses.

Representatives from many of the participating agencies are expected to attend the inauguration of the program, including El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, District Attorney Jaime Esparza, El Paso Public Defender Clara Hernandez, UTEP President Diana Natalicio, County Commissioner Anna Perez, 65th District Court Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, NAMI President Sindi Elloreaga, and County Mental Health Services Director Rita Ruelas.

WHO:       Representatives from participating agencies.

WHAT:     Inauguration of the new E.M.P.O.W.E.R. Program

WHEN:     Wednesday May 9, 2012, at 11:30 a.m.

WHERE:  Diversion Community Court

6400 Delta Dr., El Paso, Texas 79905

E.M.P.O.W.E.R. Press Advisory.pdf

Dozens Of Individuals Arrested During A 3-Day Hot Check Roundup

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal today announced the arrest of 58 individuals with outstanding warrants during a 3-day roundup that ended Thursday night. Thirty six officers from the El Paso Sheriff's Office, County Constables Precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and investigators from the County Attorney's Office participated in the operation.

In addition to individuals arrested with Theft by Check warrants, others were arrested on other types of misdemeanor and felony warrants.

During the 3 days of the roundup, our office was able to collect $18,248 in restitution to local merchants. That amount, along with the $116,000 collected since the beginning of the amnesty period on March 14, 2012, brings the total collections for the amnesty program to more than $134,000; and cleared more than 870 checks hot checks.

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal explained that most victims of hot check cases are small business owners who don't have the resources to collect on the checks themselves.

"Bad checks affect everyone, because they cause merchants to increase the prices of goods and services to make up their losses. With the hot check roundups, we seek to assist merchants in recovering losses from intentionally written bad checks," Bernal said.

"We will continue to aggressively pursue those persons with outstanding hot check warrants and encourage them to pay before they are arrested," Bernal added.

"I want to thank the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for their support in organizing the roundups, particularly Sergeant John Rodriguez from the Warrants Division. Also I would like to thank the Constables from all the Precincts and their deputies, as well as Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Barbara Perez, who served as the evening magistrate. The combined effort of the parties involved helped make this hot check roundup a success," Bernal concluded.

In the upcoming weeks investigators from the County Attorney's Office will continue their search for individuals with outstanding arrest warrants.     

Individuals can avoid arrest by paying their outstanding hot checks as soon as possible at the following locations:

El Paso County Courthouse

500 E. San Antonio, room 503

M- F 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

El Paso County Ysleta Annex

9521 Socorro Rd., Suite A-3

M - F 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Forms of payment accepted include credit cards, money orders, cashier checks, and cash; however, those paying with cash will have to bring the exact amount.

In addition, individuals can make payments online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through "Hot Check E-pay," by visiting the El Paso County Attorney's Office web-page at https://www.epcounty.com/hotchecks/

For more information regarding hot check payments and balances please contact the El Paso County Attorney's Office Hot Check Unit at 546-2051.

#  #  #

2012 Hot Check Roundups Results Press Release.pdf

Mural Painting Helps Rehabilitate Local At-Risk Teens

On Tuesday May 1, 2012, local authorities will unveil the second mural created in a program that uses art to rehabilitate at-risk students.

The mural was painted by 11 boys and three girls from the El Paso Independent School District that are under supervision of the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department. The program is spearheaded by local muralist Jesus "Cimi" Alvarado, with the idea that nurturing artistic talents in delinquent children helps them change their destructive behavior.

"Art is a powerful motivator that helps teens rehabilitate from substance abuse problems and other negative habits by developing new skills and helping them feel proud of their work," Alvarado said.

The mural is located in the handball court at Ascárate Park, and depicts migrant workers, activist Cesar Chavez, and several Aztec symbols that represent the Hispanic heritage. The project was financed through a donation from the Adult Probation Department's "Graffiti Wipeout Program" and the supplies were furnished by the El Paso Independent School District.

The mural will be unveiled on Tuesday May 1, 2012 at 4:00 p.m. by El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, 65th District Court Judge Yahara Lisa Gutierrez, El Paso Juvenile Probation Department Chief Roger Martinez, and EPISD Fine Arts Director Charles Angerstein.

The first mural created under the program also paid homage to immigrants, depicting farm workers, monarch butterflies (who migrate back and forth from Canada and Mexico every year), and Statue of Liberty along with Lady Justice. The mural was unveiled in June 2010 and remains at the offices of Las Americas Immigrant and Advocacy Center, 1500 E. Yandell Dr., in central El Paso.

For more information about the program, please call Assistant County Attorney Tracy C. Almanzan at 546-2050.

WHO:                 Representatives from participating agencies and students from EPISD.

WHAT:               Mural Unveiling.

WHEN:               Tuesday May 1, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.

WHERE:            Handball Courts at Ascárate Park, 6900 Delta Avenue.   

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2012 Mural Project Press Release.pdf

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