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Friday, December 3, 1999

Hinojos pleads guilty to Social Security misuse

Staff Writer
PECOS, Dec. 3, 1999 - A Pecos woman entered a guilty plea on charges of misappropriation of funds Thursday in federal court in Pecos.

Yolanda Hinojos of 1718 Jackson Blvd., pled guilty on 70 counts of misappropriation of social security benefits yesterday before Federal Magistrate Stewart Platt.

According to James Miller, the prosecuting United States Attorney on the case, the charges arose from Hinojos' use of social security benefits intended for her aunt, Carlota Nunez. Hinojos was the representative payee for benefits for Nunez from 1988 to 1997, he said.

Miller said that Hinojos placed Nunez in the Pecos Nursing Home in 1992, but that she did not notify the Social Security Administration of the change.

The change in residence would have reduced Nunez' social security benefits since the nursing home was providing food and shelter and Nunez was then on Medicare, Miller said.

Hinojos was terminated as the payee for Nunez' benefits in March 1997 when the Social Security Administration found out that Nunez was in the nursing home, he said.

According to Miler, the benefits were directly deposited into a joint account and later simply mailed to Hinojos' home address and deposited by Hinojos in a different bank account.

Hinojos then wrote checks on both accounts to local businesses. Listed in the Factual Basis filed with the court, were Uncle's Convenience Store, Bob's Thriftway, Wal-Mart, Furr's Supermarket, Town and Country, Pizza Hut and Beer Depot. The document also stated that Hinojos wrote checks for "Cash" and also made cash withdrawals on the accounts. (The Factual Basis is a document filed with the court detailing the facts underlying the indictment).

"None of these benefit expenditures were for the use and benefit of Carlota Nunez," the document states.

"The Defendant also claimed that the monies were used to buy Carlota Nunez clothing, but personnel at the Pecos Nursing Home stated that Ms. Nunez' clothing was provided by the nursing home clothing locker, when another resident passed away and the clothing was donated, or provided by former nursing home director Marci Rogers after Ms. Rogers bought it at yard sales," Miller said.

Miller said that Hinojos also used the benefits to pay the premiums on a $7,500 life insurance policy for Carlota Nunez in which Hinojos was a beneficiary. Hinojos then assisted Nunez in taking out loans on this policy to pay for premiums on insurance policies for herself, her husband and her daughter, as well as other cash loans that were not used for the benefit of Carlota Nunez.

"In total, the defendant converted $22,386 of Carlota Nunez' benefits to uses other than for the benefit of Ms. Nunez," Miller said.

According to the plea agreement Hinojos will be required to pay back the money in monthly payments beginning the month after she is released from either confinement or house arrest.

"When all of the facts are taken into consideration the sentencing guidelines recommend a range of 10 to 16 months confinement," Miller said. "As part of the plea bargain the United States will recommend 10 months."

The maximum range of punishment is five years imprisonment and three years supervised release for each count of the indictment, he said.

Miller also stated that the plea agreement was not binding on the judge at sentencing.

Since Hinojos pled before a magistrate, a federal judge will have to review and accept her plea, and then will pronounce sentencing as well.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 16, 2000 at 1:30 p.m.

Parks orders forfeiture of cash in seizure

PECOS, Dec. 3, 1999 - Judge Bob Parks had a brief docket this morning in 143rd District Court, setting pre-trial dates for several cases and resetting a number of cases for later this month.

Parks issued a default judgment on seizure by the state of $1,000 in cash belonging to Felix Rivera, Sr., as the result of a drug-related arrest. the judge also reset the trial date today for Felix Rivera Jr., on a drug possession charge. Rivera is currently being held in Ector County Jail.

Trial date was also reset for Jose Romo and a charge of burglary, while motions to revoke probation were dismissed and an order for community service was amended for Dagoberto Rodriguez on a felony charge, and for Edel Acosta, on a charge of attempted murder.

A motion to adjudicate was dismissed on Arnulfo N. Lujan on a drug sale charge, and an order amending community service was signed by Judge Parks.

Cases reset to Dec. 10 included Eric Lozano Lopez on an attempted murder charge. Roddy Harrison was appointed attorney in the case. Also reset for Dec. 10 was arraignment on Yvette Acosta on a felony fraud charge.

Pre-trial hearings were reset to Dec. 17 on Jesus Manuel Candia, Jr. (drug possession), Omero Rojelio Salgado (DWI), Lupe Barrera (burglary) and Adan Sais Barrera (burglary).

Pre-trial hearings were set for the same day on Manuel Gomez Florez, who entered a not guilty plea to a DWI charge; and on Vanessa Marie Hernandez, Tracie Fuentez, Elizabeth Medrano and Pilar Ornelas, who entered pleas on separate felony theft charges.

Envirocare  replies to Ward County issues

Staff Writer
PECOS, Dec. 3, 1999 - Envirocare of Texas, which is seeking to place a low-level radioactive waste storage facility north of Barstow, has responded to a list of 12 recommendations on how the company can work with the Ward County community in a positive, beneficial manner. The list was drawn up by Judge Sam G. Massey of Monahans and submitted to Envirocare.

Rick Jacobi, vice president and general counsel, stated that Envirocare takes health and safety issues very seriously, and is committed to being a good corporate citizen.

"As the nation's premier low-level radioactive waste management company, we at Envirocare are proud of our history and look forward to contributing to Ward County in every possible way," Jacobi said.

Barstow City Council, which is in Ward County, has passed a resolution opposing the facility, along with the Pecos City Council, Reeves County Commissioners Court and the Red Bluff Water Power Control District. All are located within 15 miles of the proposed site, while the northwestern Ward County location is over 30 miles from Monahans.

Jacobi stated that the company plans to work closely with Ward County. "It's unfortunate that some officials are opposing this facility," he said. "This is good for the economy."

Mike Harrison, who owns the Anderson Ranches adjacent to the site, said he has not been contacted by Envirocare. "I've signed a resolution opposing it," said Harrison.

He said that he's a realist and realizes the facility needs to be placed somewhere, "It's just unfortunate that it happens to be in our backyard," Harrison said. "I'm not real happy about it."

Envirocare also plans to build a new road leading to the facility from FM 2355, which runs between Barstow and Pyote. The road will have to run towards the Barstow area to avoid crossing the Anderson Ranches, but Harrison said, "It won't interfere with us, because there is already a road on the (John) Forrester land, west of there. I'm not saying they'll use that one, but it seems that that's the one they'll be using."

The site picked out for the facility is less than a quarter of a mile from the property fence with Anderson Ranches, Harrison said. Envirocare's site would be about eight miles north of Barstow, near the Ward-Loving county line.

Massey's recommendations, followed by Envirocare's responses, are listed below:

1. Minimum of 75 jobs.

Response: Envirocare is committed to bringing as many jobs to Ward County as our business will allow. In Utah, our facility has created over 200 high-paying jobs, the majority of which are filled by residents of Tooele County where our facility is located. Due to some uncertainties that will most likely be decided by the State of Texas in the 2001 legislative session, it is difficult to predict exactly how many jobs our Ward County facility will create. However, we are confident that there will be a substantial amount of work at our facility during the construction phase the operational phase. Current projections indicate that the first phase of construction will cost $8 million dollars and employ up to 65 persons. During operations, an estimated 30 persons will be employed initially. This number will increase as our business grows and prospers.

2. If any county roads are used, they are to be solely maintained by Envirocare.

Response: At this time, we do not intend to use any county roads.

3. Establish a designated hazardous waste route.

Response: Envirocare will work with the local emergency planning coordinator to designate appropriate hazardous waste routes. As a practical matter, all waste will arrive at the facility via interstate 20 and farm to market road 2355.

4. Establish a hazardous treatment section of Ward Memorial Hospital.

5. Fund and train Doctor's and staff of local hospital for emergency treatment of radiation, contamination, fire or other related disaster possibilities.

6. Fund and train emergency services, such as EMS, Fire Department, etc., for treatment of radiation, contamination, fire or other related disaster possibilities.

Response: Envirocare has prepared an emergency plan in conjunction with the licensing of the facility. This plan outlines cooperation with local emergency responders including fire, law enforcement and medical facilities.

Even though the safety procedures that we will institute at the facility will eliminate the possibility of any serious accidents, we are committed to providing training to the doctors and staff of the Ward Memorial Hospital in dealing with the range of possible emergency conditions that might arise at the facility. In almost 12 years of operations in Tooele County Envirocare has never had a radiation exposure accident. Furthermore, the waste that will come to Ward County will come in sealed steel containers and will not be directly handled by our employees. This will further decrease the possibility of a serious accident.

In addition, we commit to providing appropriate emergency training to EMS, Fire Department and other emergency service personnel. This training will take place before Envirocare receives its first shipment of waste in Ward County.

7. Collaborate with local school system for education on job training for employment with Envirocare.

Response: Envirocare commits to provide an annual scholarship of $1,000 to a graduating senior desiring to pursue a career in a field of study related to the operations of our facility in Ward County. In addition, Envirocare commits to working with the faculty and staff of the school districts to fund and coordinate training sessions in fields of study related to Envirocare's operations.

The children of the community are the future of the community. We at Envirocare are confident that will play a prominent role in helping to prepare the children of Ward County for the future.

8. Utilize local businesses for purchasing when possible.

Response: Our corporate philosophy at Envirocare is to support local businesses whenever possible. At our Utah facility, we have a strong record of supporting Tooele County businesses. Consistent with our corporate philosophy, we will give highest priority to working with local businesses in Ward County. It is important to us to develop good business relationships with local businesses and to be an active member of the business community in Ward County.

9. Contribute $25,000 on a yearly basis for the Ward County Economic Development Fund.

Response: Economic development in Ward County is very important to Envirocare. After all, Ward County is the place where most of our employees will live. Therefore, we commit to contribute $25,000 per year to the Ward County Economic Development Fund. It is Envirocare's sincere desire that this organization be successful in developing the County's economy. The first contribution will be made before we receive our first waste shipment.

10. Establish and meet bi-annually with an Oversight Committee made up of Ward County citizens representing the school, county, city, business and community.

11. Meet with Winkler County, as well as surrounding counties, Reeves, Upton, Crane, Pecos, Winkler, and Ector once a year to inform the public of the status of the site, such as quantity, monitoring, controls, levels, etc.

Response: We at Envirocare believe that open communication with the public is extremely important. We commit to meeting with Reeves, Upton, Crane, Pecos, Winkler, Loving and Ector counties on a yearly basis to discuss our operations and to answer questions. It is our desire to ensure that the public is educated about our operations, and we look forward to working with these counties.

12. Guarantee only Class A, B, C low-level waste is stored at site. If ever anything else is considered, a referendum must be held to be approved by Ward County citizens and paid for by Envirocare.

Response: Envirocare has no current plans to handle any material other than Class A, B, and C low-level radioactive waste. Envirocare supported HB 1910 (which limited the types of radioactive wastes that could be managed in a Texas facility) in the last legislative session and would support a similar bill in the future.

However, if the State of Texas, as a matter of policy, decides to allow private companies to handle waste from outside of the Texas Compact, then Envirocare would pursue this business opportunity. Because cooperating closely with Ward County is important to our success, we would work closely with the community to make sure that our business plans were consistent with the desires of the leadership in the county. But could not pay for the referendum.

TxDOT road work to close I-20 exit ramps

The Texas Department said that the main exits into Monahans for traffic on Interstate 20 would be interrupted for the next several days, due to construction activity at that location.

Dan Dalager, the TxDOT engineer in charge of the project, said that electronic message boards would advise drivers that Exit 80 (the State Highway 18 entrances and exits) in Monahans would be closed for road repair work. The signs will be place both on I-20 and Highway 18 to tell drivers about the exit ramp and entrance ramp closures and suggest detour routes.

Motorists should be alert for construction equipment and workers, observe all warning signs, and drive carefully through the construction zone.

Ramps at Loop 464, Wickett, and Spur 65 as well at the roadside comfort stations west of Wickett, will be closed over the next several weeks, while working in going on at those locations, said Dalager. Work has been completed at two interchanges: Business Interstate 20 east of Monahans, and at Pyote.

The work is being performed by Jones Bros. Dirt and Paving Contractors of Odessa. The state is rebuilding nearly 20 miles of Interstate from east of Monahans to just west of Pyote. The cost of the 19.6-mile highway project will be $10.2 million.

Dalager said the entire project is expected to be completed by mid-June.

First candidate  files for 2000 race

PECOS, Dec. 3, 1999 - Filing began this morning for the March primary elections, and one person submitted his petition to run in the Democratic primary this morning.

Jesse Baeza filed to run for Precinct 1 Commissioner, according to Reeves County Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Dean. He said the petition was still "subject to checking" before it would be certified.

Baeza is seeking to fill the seat currently held by Felipe Villalobos, who has indicated he plans to run for re-election.

Filing will continue for the primary elections until Jan. 3. Petitions for the Democratic primary can be taken to Dean's house, at 523 S. Hackberry St.

RCDC job payment on county's agenda

PECOS, Dec. 3, 1999 - Reeves County Commissioners will meet at 9:35 a.m., Monday, in a special meeting to discuss Banes General Contractors request for payment number eight for work at the Reeves County Detention Center.

Commissioners will also discuss and take action on Madera Valley Water Supply Corporation Water line easements.

The group will meet on the third floor of the Reeves County Courthouse.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Thursday night: Winning numbers drawn: 16-25-26-29-37. Number matching five of five: 1. Prize per winner: $81,899. Winning ticket(s) sold in: Arlington. Matching four of five: 222. Prize: $554.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Thursday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 4-4-7 (four, four, seven)


High Thursday 75. Low this morning 48. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low in the lower 30s. West wind 10 to 20 mph. Saturday: Increasing cloudiness and cooler with a high in the mid 50s. Northwest wind 10 to 20 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 20s. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High in the mid to upper 50s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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