Guard Accused of Giving Phone, Tools to Escaped Texas Inmates

A guard at the jail where six inmates broke out last month has been charged with smuggling a cell phone and pliers to one of the fugitives.

Commissary officer Joseph Paul Llanos was arrested and charged in federal court last week with aiding and abetting the flight of Francisco Meza-Rojas from the privately run East Hidalgo Detention Center.

Meza-Rojas, a former McAllen police officer accused of running a family drug-smuggling ring, and five alleged members of a violent drug gang remain at large after the Sept. 19 jail break. Authorities suspect the fugitives fled across the border into Mexico, about 20 miles away.

Authorities determined the inmates escaped after gaining access to several exit doors and overpowering a guard with a homemade knife.

Prosecutors allege in court records that Llano gave Meza-Rojas pliers that were used to cut through at least three fences, including an electrified one that someone had turned off. Prosecutors suspect Meza-Rojas used a cell phone provided by Llano to call for a ride when he reached a highway.

A businessman and the wife of another fugitive also were arrested and charged last week with aiding and abetting, court documents show.

According to criminal complaints, Martin Angel Villarreal Jr.'s business cards were found in the pod where the inmates were held. Marshals believe he gave Llanos the cell phone, pliers and $200.

Prosecutors also allege that Magdalena Pena, wife of fugitive Enrique Pena-Saenz, told federal marshals that her husband informed her of the escape plan in August and that she was given $100 to pay someone to smuggle in the cell phone.