Questions linger after federal agents search McAllen law office

A week after federal agents searched a McAllen law office, the focus of their investigation remains a mystery.

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations executed a search warrant at attorney Eric Jarvis’ office on April 22.

News about the search rocketed through the legal community — and left many attorneys stunned.

“I’ve known Eric a long time,” said attorney Norman Jolly of Houston, who worked with Jarvis on construction defect lawsuits and other civil cases during the past two decades. “And not a hint that he would perpetrate or suggest perpetrating anything illegal, as far as I know the man. He’s got a family. He’s making a good living.”

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, executed a search warrant at attorney Eric Jarvis’ office on April 22, 2021. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / The Progress Times)

Jarvis didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Asked about the search warrant, Homeland Security Investigations — the investigative arm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — confirmed that agents “conducted a law enforcement action” but didn’t elaborate.

“The criminal investigation is ongoing, and no further details are available at this time,” according to a statement released by Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for the agency.

A person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said the investigation involved how Jarvis used PACER, a computer system that makes federal court records available to the public.

While anyone with a PACER account may access court records, providing them to people involved in criminal activity or acquiring them to further a criminal conspiracy is risky.

In 2019, former Hidalgo County Court-at-Law #6 Bailiff Oscar De La Cruz confessed to providing drug traffickers with court records and conducting more than 1,000 PACER searches in exchange for cash.

De La Cruz never handled drugs or committed a violent crime, according to his attorney. Prosecutors, though, indicted him on a conspiracy charge.

A judge sentenced De La Cruz to five years in federal prison.

Jarvis hasn’t been arrested or charged with any crime. A woman who took a message at his law office said Jarvis returned to work April 23.

Eric Samuel Jarvis, 47, of Mission graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1999, according to the State Bar of Texas directory.

After he passed the bar, Jarvis worked for former Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia.

“The only thing that comes to my mind is he did excellent work here in my office,” Garcia said. “He was a very competent, very qualified, very intelligent young man when he was here.”

Eric Jarvis

Attorney Eric Samuel Jarvis, 47, of Mission. (Video screenshot via Facebook.)

In 2004, just five years after he graduated from law school, Jarvis challenged state District Judge Ed Aparicio in the Democratic Party primary. Jarvis caught a major break that January, when the FBI raided Aparicio’s courtroom.

The scandal made headlines for months.

Jarvis, meanwhile, touted endorsements from law enforcement unions and ran newspaper ads urging Hidalgo County residents to “Vote for Change!”

The FBI investigation hurt Aparicio, but he still managed to win nearly 53% of ballots cast during the primary, according to results published by the Texas Secretary of State’s Office.

“That’s not close, really,” said former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra. “If you have somebody being raided by the FBI and under investigation, and you get beat by five points, that’s a landslide without any FBI influence.”

Aparicio, who was never charged with a crime, died by suicide in April 2005.

In 2006, when the state held a special election for the remainder of Aparicio’s term, Jarvis ran again. He faced Edinburg City Councilman Ricardo Rodriguez Jr., who resigned to run for judge.

The law enforcement unions, which had supported Jarvis in 2004, backed Rodriguez instead. Mayors, state lawmakers and school board trustees from across Hidalgo County also endorsed Rodriguez, who campaigned relentlessly.

Rodriguez crushed Jarvis in the Democratic Party primary, winning about 65% of the vote.

Jarvis had lost the election, but he still had a promising legal career.

At some point, Jarvis met Julio “Nandie” Davila, a federal informant who became a key witness in public corruption cases against former Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño and former Justice of the Peace Jose Ismael “Melo” Ochoa.

Davila’s girlfriend told the Texas Rangers that he referred clients to Jarvis.

Davila confirmed her story. He also told the Texas Rangers about bringing Jarvis to a meeting with Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez, a drug trafficker who donated money to the sheriff’s re-election campaign.

When the Sheriff’s Office raided Gonzalez’s property, he called Davila for help.

Davila called a corrupt deputy and a commander at the Sheriff’s Office, fishing for information. He also arranged a meeting with Gonzalez.

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, executed a search warrant at attorney Eric Jarvis’ office on April 22, 2021. (Photo by Dave Hendricks / The Progress Times)

“DAVILA called Attorney JARVIS and met him in Weslaco with GONZALEZ,” according to a Texas Rangers report on the incident. “DAVILA advised that he received $35,000.00 to $40,000.00 from GONZALEZ.”

The Texas Rangers report doesn’t include any indication that Jarvis was questioned or accused of a crime. The Texas Rangers, however, did verify that Jarvis represented many people linked to Davila.

Guerra said he didn’t find the story about Jarvis and Davila credible.

“As far as I know, he has always had a good reputation. I don’t know of anybody who has questioned his integrity and his honesty,” Guerra said. “But I don’t know what may be happening regionally.”

If Jarvis had any shortcomings, Guerra said, they simply involved his failure to read the political tea leaves correctly.

“On Jarvis, if he did something wrong, I’m sad to hear it,” Guerra said.

Jolly, the attorney from Houston, had a similar reaction to the search warrant.

“The police go into a lawyer’s office. That doesn’t mean that he did anything illegal,” Jolly said. “They may be looking for something one of his clients did. I don’t know. That would be my guess.”

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