The man hired eight years ago to launch the Jarrell Police Department is scheduled to appear in federal court Friday, accused of using his post to collect money from people in the country illegally.
Federal charging documents say Andres Tomas Gutierrez took payments ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 from undocumented residents. In exchange, the documents say, Gutierrez falsified paperwork saying those individuals were helping the Jarrell Police Department with criminal investigations, thereby qualifying them to obtain temporary immigration status.
“I’m just absolutely stunned,” said Larry Bush, mayor pro tem of Jarrell. “We had no idea that anything like this was going on. Nobody had come forward.”
Bush said that Gutierrez always acted professionally and had told him he enjoyed working in the small town of about 1,000 people, located in northern Williamson County.
The federal court documents, dated Feb. 5, charge Gutierrez with wire fraud. He is scheduled for arraignment Friday and could face up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines if convicted.
Gutierrez resigned Oct. 31 as chief of police, saying he wanted to pursue his education and other law enforcement opportunities.
Jarrell city officials didn’t suspect him of any wrongdoing when he resigned and were equally mystified when federal agents raided City Hall in December, seizing records and computers.
Court records say Gutierrez collected the payments from the fall of 2011 to November 2013. Two other people, who weren’t named in the court documents and didn’t work for the city of Jarrell, introduced Gutierrez to undocumented workers who had money to pay for immigration benefits, the documents said.
Gutierrez and the two people working with him told the illegal immigrants they would be working as informants for the Jarrell Police Department, the documents said. As they asked for the payment, they “lied to the (undocumented residents), telling them that the Jarrell Police Department would receive the money and use it to pay expenses related to official business,” the documents said. In fact, authorities said, Gutierrez and his accomplices kept “the money for their own personal use,” the documents said.
Then Gutierrez emailed applications to U.S. government officials in Austin, seeking a special type of immigration status for those individuals by claiming they were helping the Jarrell Police Department with narcotics and human trafficking investigations, authorities said. The “Significant Public Benefit Parole” — available to foreigners who assist local, state and federal law enforcement agencies — allows them to remain in the United States for one year. It can be renewed by a law enforcement agency.
Gutierrez “abused the position of trust that he held as the Chief of Police in Jarrell, Texas; and he also abused a federal program that makes limited immigration benefits available for law enforcement purposes,” the charging documents state.
The documents don’t say how many people paid the alleged bribes, or how much money Gutierrez and the others allegedly collected.
But other records indicate Gutierrez had financial troubles.
He and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and made a payment plan to pay back debts of more than $250,000. Most of Gutierrez’s paycheck from the city for the past three years “went to bankruptcy court,” Jarrell City Manager Mel Yantis told the American-Statesman last month.
About two or three years ago, city officials heard that Gutierrez had borrowed money from a Jarrell resident and asked him not to do it again, said Bush.
“It wasn’t illegal,” but it wasn’t appropriate, Bush said. City officials never heard any complaints about Gutierrez borrowing money from residents again.