IssuesLocal NewsBexar County Constable Controversies Amplified by FBI and Texas Rangers Raid

Michelle Barrientes Vela, a constable in Bexar County who has been accused of discrimination from a deputy running for her seat, had her home and office searched by law enforcement.
September 23, 2019
Early on Monday morning, FBI agents and Texas Rangers executed a search warrant at the home and office of Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela in Bexar County Precinct 2.

For the past year, Vela has been embroiled in a controversy with Leonicio Moreno, a police deputy who is now seeking to be elected to the constable position.

The feud apparently goes back to an incident in a hot tub during a 2017 work trip to Galveston.

In a lawsuit filed in late 2018, Moreno alleged that Vela sexually harassed him, calling him her husband and attempting to caress him. After the incident, Moreno claims that Vela “engaged in retaliatory conduct” as his supervisor in the workplace.

Another deputy, Christopher De La Cerda, corroborated Moreno’s claims.

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Between the alleged hot tub incident and the lawsuit, both Moreno and De La Cerda were fired after Vela contacted the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) to have them investigated for falsifying training records.

Records showed that during a single day, Moreno, the precinct’s training coordinator, had logged 22 hours of training.

TCOLE sent Moreno and De La Cerda written reprimands and were terminated from their positions, but the two were later reinstated in a vote by the Bexar County Civil Service Commission.

In January of 2019, Moreno filed to run for Vela’s seat. According to a campaign filing, De La Cerda is serving as his treasurer.

Four months later, at the end of April, Moreno was arrested by officers out of his precinct for allegedly falsifying two Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints.

The office of District Attorney Joe Gonzales dropped all charges against Moreno within a few hours of his arrest.

Surveillance footage obtained by KSAT-12 showed that the officers who arrested Moreno delayed booking him for about twenty minutes until media could set up to report on the arrest.

Since the arrest, Moreno and De La Cerda have filed two more lawsuits against Vela — a federal lawsuit over the delayed booking and another lawsuit over discrimination. 

In August, Vela announced that she would seek re-election for her position. During the announcement, she accused Gonzales and the county sheriff of bullying and threatening to arrest her.

On Monday, September 23, law enforcement raided her home and office.

“What I believe here is that they are looking for something that is not there. The reason why is that I don’t believe in the good ole boy system, I never have,” Vela told press on Monday. She claimed that the search warrants had been “improperly served” and disputed that there are several lawsuits against her.

Investigators confirmed that the searches occurred, but declined to give press any further information to maintain the integrity of the investigation.


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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.