County Attorney Press Releases

December 2006 - Posts

 El Paso County Attorney José R. Rodríguez has successfully prosecuted a landlord who had several families, including half a dozen children, living in very dangerous and unhealthy conditions.

            Luis Torres, the owner of a trailer park located at 749 Ascension Rd. in Horizon City, was found guilty this past Friday to one violation of the Texas Water Code (failing septic system) and to another public nuisance charge of unsanitary and fire-hazard conditions at his property.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 6, Rubén Luján, sentenced Mr. Torres to pay a $259 fine for the septic tank violation, and to pay $200 plus court costs for the public nuisance violation. The defendant was also ordered to abate the nuisances, and was prohibited from leasing or otherwise inhabiting any dwelling at 749 Ascension. Mr. Torres will also have to remove all but one dwelling, install a new septic system, and re-apply with the El Paso county Road and Bridge Department for a certificate of compliance to obtain electrical power and water for his property.

            The charges originated from a September 2006 incident, when a resident reported a spill of raw sewage underneath a mobile home at 749 Ascension. An investigator from the El Paso City-County Health District found several families living in buildings with missing walls and leaky roofs. The investigator also found evidence of cockroach infestation on one kitchen and bathroom. Some residents complained of sewage discharging underneath some of the 4 mobile homes on-site. The investigator also reported multiple dwellings connected to only one septic system, and numerous electrical extension cords running from unauthorized circuit breaker boxes to some of the dwellings, and from room to room throughout the trailer park. Some of the extension cords were running on the ground and were frayed. Mr. Torres was issued 2 violation notices asking him to abate the nuisances; he was also told that the multiple electrical extension cords were a fire hazard and that he had to disconnect them.

Two months later, on November 26, 2006, a fire caused by an electrical short was reported at the same address. Three mobile homes were burned and several families were displaced as a result of the fire. The very next day another inspector from the Health Department responded to the same address to investigate a complaint of overflowing sewage from the septic tank. The inspector confirmed several families with young children were still living on the property even though there was no electrical power because of the fire. Witnesses observed children wading through the sewage. 

On November 29, 2006, two of the El Paso County Attorney's Office's investigators discovered that Mr. Torres had obtained a gasoline-powered generator and was distributing electricity through extension cords to several families living in the apartments and mobile homes that were not burned. Because of the impending freezing temperatures over night, the investigators and El Paso County Emergency Services District No. 1 Fire Chief Stephen Hoeller were able to obtain shelter for the families. The Baptist Church and El Paso Baptist Association provided additional shelter. In early December the water service was disconnected after the Health Department revoked Mr. Torres' license to operate the septic system at 749 Ascension.

            "Every time we find cases like these where landlords have families living in sub-standard conditions, we face a big challenge trying to prosecute and find a proper punishment for whoever is responsible, because in Texas county governments lack the power to enact land use and building codes," said El Paso County Attorney José R. Rodríguez. 

"Fortunately no one lost their life as a result of the fire, which was caused by the electrical overload. It is imperative that we protect the public health and safety by enacting and enforcing more stringent laws. Many people live in sub-standard conditions and are fearful of complaining because they might be evicted, their rent increasing, or being deported, if undocumented, at the hands of unscrupulous, avaricious landlords."

            The County Attorney's Office is working to convince the Texas Legislature to give counties the power to enact land use and building codes to help prevent the development of new Colonias.

            Rodríguez added that public nuisance is an on-going problem in the county of El Paso, and his office will continue to prosecute such offenders. The penalty for the crime is a fine of up to $200. To report public nuisances, call the El Paso City-County Health and Environmental District at 860-2378.      Horizon Landlord Trial Press Release.pdf




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Police initiates search for wanted contractors

            El Paso Count Attorney José R. Rodríguez announced today that he has obtained arrest warrants against two contractors accused of taking advantage of a Northeast El Paso family that was trying to repair their home after the recent floods.

32-year-old Joseph Arroyos and 29-year-old Claudia Gisela Ramirez, of 9316 Cannes Circle, face charges of deceptive business practice, a class ‘A' misdemeanor, punishable with a fine not to exceed $4,000 and/or up to 365 days in jail.

According to the complaint affidavit, on October 10, 2006 Rosa Vasquez hired Arroyos and Ramirez, doing business as "Dreams Come True Construction", to repair the roof of her house that was seriously damaged by rain. The victim had received 2 checks from her insurance company to pay for the repairs. On that date she gave the first check in the amount of $993 to Joseph Arroyos. Almost a week later, a group of workers from "Dreams Come True Construction" showed up at her residence on 5545 Prince Edward to remove some damaged shingles from the roof, but the work was left unfinished after an Inspector that was passing thru the neighborhood advised them to stop the work because they did not have the proper vehicle to transport the shingles and they lacked the permits to fix the roof. The workers left leaving the shingles all over her yard as well as hundreds of nails, creating a dangerous situation. Vasquez said nobody from "Dreams Come True Construction" ever came back to her house to finish the job. The home was left in inhabitable conditions, and that caused Ms. Vasquez to spend all her savings to hire a second company to make other repairs. As a result, she is suffering financial hardship during this holiday season. "There is no money left to buy presents for my children," said Ms. Vasquez, "We used it all to fix the roof.  The house has still not been repaired by the contractor."

                        Joseph Arroyos has an extensive criminal history accompanied by complaints from individuals who paid him for services that were never rendered, including a second outstanding warrant for a repair contract on a house in the North Loop area this year, and 5 pending criminal charges for deceptive business practices for operating contracts under the business name "CJ Construction" and "C and J Construction." Arroyos also has an outstanding contempt of court warrant for unpaid child support. According to court records up to today he owes over $40,000 in unpaid child support.

            "The case of Rosa Vasquez has been a nightmare for her family," said County Attorney José R. Rodríguez "This case is another example of why it is very important not to give money upfront for work. We need the community's help in locating these two wanted individuals, to put a stop to all their scams," explained Rodríguez.

If you have information that could lead to the arrest of Joseph Arroyos and Claudia Gisela Ramirez, you are asked to please contact the El Paso Police Department at 564-7000.

If you feel you have been victim of a scam on the hands of an unscrupulous contractor, please contact the police department or call the County Attorney's Office, at 546-2050.

Contractors Wanted Press Release.pdf 


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      Joseph Arroyos                     Claudia Gisela Ramirez


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County Attorney José R. Rodríguez announced today that Adam Curiel, the 17-year-old juvenile found delinquent of Capital Murder on November 2003, will be transferred this week to an adult prison to serve the remainder of his 40-year sentence.

            Curiel, a resident of Chaparral NM., was convicted for the fatal shooting of 54-year-old Chuck Potts, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran who was working as a convenience store clerk in Northeast El Paso in October 29, 2002, when the incident happened.

On November 7, 2003 a San Antonio jury declared Adam Curiel delinquent, the juvenile justice system equivalent of guilty, and sentenced him to 40-years in prison, the maximum sentence for a juvenile under Texas law.

The Texas Human Resources Code mandates that a juvenile sentenced for Capital Murder under the determinate sentencing laws must be transferred from the Texas Youth Commission to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (Adult Prison) upon his 21st birthday, unless the juvenile has already served 10 years of his sentence.   

Curiel will be 21 years old on Friday December 15, 2006, and has only served 4 years in prison; as a result he will automatically be transferred to an adult prison by this Friday to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Because the Texas Government Code requires juveniles convicted of capital murder who are transferred to TDCJ to serve at least half their sentence before they are eligible for a parole hearing, Curiel will need to serve at least 16 more years before he is considered for a parole hearing, and even then, the hearing does not guarantee that he will be released.

"The transfer of Adam Curiel to the State penitentiary serves as a lesson to juveniles who commit violent crimes like capital murder; they will do time in adult prison, and we will continue to pursue all legal avenues, such as the Texas Determinate Sentence Statute, to protect and safeguard the community against offenders like him," said El Paso County Attorney José R. Rodríguez.

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Adam Curiel Press Release.pdf