By Aaron J. Montes/KTEP News

Army veterans enrolled in a class taught by attorney Roger Rodriguez at Fort Bliss say he promised as a judge he could help them get government jobs when they joined a group he started called the Combined Veterans Association.

“I waited two years for him to get me a job,” David Poche, an Army veteran, told KTEP News. “And, I said ‘this guy is a liar,’ so I never got (a) job with him.”

KTEP News spoke to half a dozen veterans who attended meetings held by Rodriguez on the patio of a coffee shop in West El Paso. Members of the group say Rodriguez pressured them to recruit more members. Some allege he also collected fees in cash for legal services he did not perform. 

One of the veterans said he harassed and threatened her, and fired a gun in her home.

Rodriguez is a traffic court judge for the Village of Vinton and also served as a legal advisor to former District Attorney Yvonne Rosales. He has faced accusations of intimidation and other abusive behavior in his role with Rosales.

Rodriguez recruited students with military backgrounds enrolled in a homeland security course at the Park University campus on Fort Bliss to join his organization, according to members who attended his meetings off post.

“He targets soldiers that just came back from deployment,” said Leilani Hart, a retired Army medic. “Because those soldiers already have full pockets of non-taxed pay during deployment. So, he would lure them over and push them to recruit some more.”

On a recording by one of the veterans of a meeting in 2019, which was provided to KTEP News, Rodriguez tells the group, “If you want the jobs, they’re there and the recommendations are there. If you want a tie-in with the Secret Service, I’ll give you my recommendation.”

Rodriguez did not respond to several requests for an interview or comment.

The veterans association was never registered as a nonprofit organization and has now disbanded.

Park University – a Missouri-based private higher education system with campuses across the country – confirmed that Rodriguez is an adjunct professor in “good standing” but is not teaching this semester.

“Park University is aware of two student complaints made in 2022 against Roger Rodriguez, neither of which pertain to University matters and his performance as a Park instructor,” according to an emailed response to questions.

Some of the veterans who joined Rodriguez’s association said they have spoken to the FBI. The FBI does not confirm or deny there’s an investigation.

Most members of the group who spoke with KTEP News did not want their names made public because they say they fear retaliation from Rodriguez.

Several said Rodriguez had a quota for each person to recruit 30 new members because veterans who joined left after a few meetings.

“There were folks that would come in and in a short amount of time, they’d realize ‘this guy is bogus,’” Hart said.

Some veterans stayed, hoping Rodriguez would deliver on his promises, including Poche.

“He promised us a police badge,” he said. “That’s the way he keeps the people in the group. Everybody was supposed to get a badge.”

Six veterans told KTEP that Rodriguez promised to give them a badge that would allow them to work as security guards. At least three were “sworn-in” and given an ID with the title Bailiff, Village of Vinton seal, an expiration date of July 2021 and Rodriguez’s signature.

The cards were not valid.

Army veterans say Vinton Village Judge Roger Rodriguez gave at least three of them this card declaring them bailiffs. Vinton officials said the bailiff position doesn’t exist.

A spokesman for Vinton said the municipality “does not employ a bailiff nor do we have a recent history of doing so.”

Village officials refused to confirm whether Rodriguez is still a traffic court judge. In response to a Texas Public Information Act request, Vinton officials said they had no records of payments to Rodriguez since at least 2019.

He still appears on the village’s website as a judge.

Instead of paid jobs, the veterans in the association became “volunteer” security guards for Rodriguez, several of them said. They provided security at meetings and events he organized. High-powered rifles were displayed at some of the meetings Rodriguez organized.

High-powered rifles were on display at a meeting of Roger Rodriguez’s Combined Veterans Association in 2021. (Special to KTEP News)

Others paid Rodriguez for legal services he did not perform as promised. One veteran said he hired Rodriguez for a DWI case.

Hart hired him to help her with a divorce. He required payment of thousands of dollars in cash.

“Reliving my own nightmare”

Rodriguez began harassing Hart when she would ask about the progress of her divorce, she said. When she tried paying him with a check instead of cash, Hart says he was furious.

“This could get me in trouble,” Hart said he told her.

Hart shared voicemail messages from Rodriguez with KTEP News where he is heard asking her to call back repeatedly, which she took as threats. “I got tired of his threats,” she said.

When she didn’t return his calls, Hart says Rodriguez showed up at her home in 2021, demanded payment in cash and fired a gun in her living room. She said Rodriguez’s wife, Anne, accompanied him.

Hart pointed out the damage to her living room wall that looked like a bullet hole.

“That’s that hole,” she said. “I look at it and I keep reminding myself, that’s how close I came to being murdered in my own house by a judge, while his wife was standing there shaking with fear.”

Leilani Hart, a former Army medic, says Roger Rodriguez showed up at her home in 2021 and fired a gun in her living room after demanding payment from her. (Aaron J. Montes/KTEP News)

Hart says she did not call police because she feared retaliation from Rodriguez. She said she decided to share her story after seeing the allegations about Alexander Hoffmann’s family.

Hoffmann was among 23 people killed in the Aug. 3, 2019, Walmart mass shooting. His widow and son say Rodriguez harassed and threatened them while he was working on Rosales’ behalf.

Thomas Hoffmann testified in court in December that Rodriguez brandished a gun during a breakfast meeting last year and told his mother he had “snipers everywhere.”

Their attorney provided recorded conversations with Rodriguez and testimony to the FBI for further investigation.

“I believe the family,” Hart said. “Because if he’s out there pulling a gun on the family, he’s used to it. So overconfident that he’s untouchable.”

Hart said she’s still afraid to turn her lights on and watches television with the volume low so she can hear any noises outside because she is afraid Rodriguez will return.

One of the former members of the Combined Veterans Association told KTEP he was concerned that Hart was in danger from Rodriguez and bought her a security camera system as a precaution. He asked not to be identified, out of concern Rodriguez would retaliate against him.

Rodriguez role in DA’s office

Rodriguez played a prominent role in events that led to the downfall of Rosales, El Paso’s first woman district attorney who resigned last year after less than two years in office. She had faced a court petition seeking her removal on the grounds of incompetency and official misconduct for actions taken in office.

At a December court hearing, Rosales invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when questioned about her relationship with Rodriguez. Rosales described Rodriguez as a legal advisor during a court hearing in September.

Former District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, center, received an award in August 2021 from the Combined Veterans Association, which was formed by her legal advisor, Roger Rodriguez, right. The award was presented at a meeting with then-Chihuahua Attorney General César Peniche, left, and members of Rodriguez’s association. Some members said Rodriguez used them as unpaid security at the meeting. (Special to KTEP News)

At the September hearing, attorneys for the man accused in the Walmart mass shooting asked Rosales and former senior prosecutor Curtis Cox about Rodriguez. Defense attorney Mark Stevens asked Rosales if her office shared evidence about the shooting with Rodriguez and if he had played a part in trying to have 409th District Judge Sam Medrano removed from the mass shooting case.

Defense attorneys also asked if Rodriguez had met with the Hoffmann family on behalf of the DA’s office. Rosales denied that had happened.

Defense attorney Felix Valenzuela also asked if Rodriguez was in the DA’s office at the time of the hearing. Cox said he was not.

But security camera footage shows Cox and Rodriguez, along with Rodriguez’s wife, meeting on the third floor of the county courthouse that same day. The trio then walked to the DA’s office security door through a stairwell and remained in the office during the hearing.

Courthouse security video shows Assistant District Attorney Curtis Cox meeting with Roger Rodriguez and his wife, Anne, in September 2022. (Video courtesy El Paso County)

Rodriguez was not on staff but represented the DA’s office in a Texas Ethics Commission hearing in 2021. He was also the attorney of record for Rosales in her official capacity as the lead prosecutor for El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties during a federal case in 2022.

Aaron Montes may be reached at; or on Twitter: @aaronjmontes.

The original version of this story was published at and is republished with permission.