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Mayor of Texas border town charged with trafficking cocaine

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The mayor of a small Texas town on the U.S.-Mexico border has been arrested and charged with trafficking cocaine.

Gerardo “Jerry” Alanis, 31, was cuffed Monday morning at his home in Progreso, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Alanis’ brother, Frank, is also charged in the same case. Frank Alanis was the powerful president of the Progreso School Board and remains a board trustee.

Federal investigators said the Alanis brothers and two other men conspired to distribute cocaine through the Rio Grande Valley in far south Texas, according to Brownsville CBS affiliate KVEO.

The investigation began in 2020, when a former Progreso school bus driver was busted by Border Patrol with 30 pounds of cocaine in his truck. The driver, Joe Salas Jr., cooperated with the feds in exchange for a shorter prison sentence.

In October 2023, police arrested Frank Alanis and three other men. In court, Frank Alanis was ordered to have no contact with his brother Gerardo, Progreso Police Chief Cesar Solis, or his eventual replacement as school board president, Juan Ramos Jr., according to KVEO.

Charging documents obtained by KVEO focus on three incidents in which the Alanis brothers conspired to distribute cocaine. The feds said they had 30 pounds, 48 pounds and 58 pounds of cocaine during the three separate events.

Progreso city officials have a history of trouble with the law. In 2014, then-mayor Omar Vela admitted to shaking down local businesses for bribes alongside his brother, then-school board president Michael Vela. According to the feds, their father, Jose Vela, was running the city through his sons.

“It seems like it’s the same circus. All they do is change the clowns,” a Hidalgo County constable, Celestino Avila Jr., told KVEO after the Alanis brothers were arrested.

A third Alanis brother, Alejandro “Alex” Alanis, is secretary of the Progreso School Board. He has not been charged with any crimes.

The city and the school district are two of the largest employers in Progreso, according to KVEO, giving the Alanis family significant power over people’s jobs.

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