AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Jarrell Police Chief Andres Tomas Gutierrez pleaded guilty Friday to taking bribes from immigrants and lying about making them tipsters so they could stay in the U.S. with legal permission, prosecutors said.
Gutierrez, 51, faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud/theft of honest services. No sentencing date was immediately set, and Gutierrez was allowed to remain free on bond.
He resigned as police chief on Oct. 31 after eight years with the department, saying he wanted to pursue other law enforcement opportunities and advance his education.
In December, federal agents raided Jarrell City Hall, seizing computers and other records.
Investigators say since 2011, Gutierrez solicited and accepted up to $40,000 in bribes from people who were living in the U.S. without legal permission. Gutierrez claimed he would recommend them for parolee immigration status, which is reserved for those who help officers with operations such as with drug and human trafficking investigations, prosecutors said.
Gutierrez solicited and accepted cash bribes, in return for requesting and obtaining limited immigration benefits designed for law enforcement purposes, U.S. Attorney Robert Pittman said. The police chief kept the money and never sought assistance from the individuals; instead he "simply sold" the benefits, Pittman said in a statement.
The Significant Public Benefit Parole program recognizes assistance from immigrants who take part in legal proceedings to benefit the U.S. government, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Such requests must be submitted by a law enforcement agency.
"Gutierrez abused his authority and repeatedly broke the law he was sworn to uphold," said John Boles, FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge. "He tarnished the badge he wore and violated the trust of the people of Jarrell."
Jarrell is located 40 miles north of Austin.
Federal website on parolee language: http://www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary/parolee