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Sheriff's commander refuses to testify in Panama Unit case; DA's investigator does same, is fired. McALLEN — Joe Padilla cut an imposing figure as he walked into the federal courtroom Thursday.

Sheriff's commander refuses to testify in Panama Unit case; DA's investigator does same, is fired

Wearing his Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office uniform with a golden leaf on the lapel denoting his rank as commander, Padilla walked up to U.S. District Judge Randy Crane to answer questions about his potential testimony in the drug conspiracy trial of former sheriff’s Deputy Jorge Garza. Prior to Padilla being called to the bench, Crane had already mentioned that the commander was the target of an investigation by the U.S.

Attorney’s Office. “On the advice of my counsel, I plead the Fifth and will not answer further questions,” Padilla said. Sheriff: Not firing deputy ‘biggest’ mistake - The Monitor: News. EDINBURG — He now calls it the biggest mistake of his law enforcement career.

Sheriff: Not firing deputy ‘biggest’ mistake - The Monitor: News

Two months after Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño decided not to fire a deputy who tested positive for marijuana use, he says he knows when to admit an error in judgment and has taken steps to make sure it never happens again. “In my 35-year career, I have never made such a big mistake — the biggest mistake, the grand-daddy of mistakes,” he said. “I will never, never, never make that mistake again.” A complete revision of the rules that govern deputy conduct, finalized May 30, now includes a zero-tolerance policy of “automatic and mandatory termination” for positive results on drug screenings. “Now, they have a guidebook that can be easily understood,” he said. ‘Not a powerful man’: After rise from street cop to local political elite, Treviño questioned in corruption trial - The Monitor: News.

McALLEN — Facing 10 years to life inside federal prison, former Hidalgo County sheriff’s Deputy Jorge Garza appeared bored Friday afternoon.

‘Not a powerful man’: After rise from street cop to local political elite, Treviño questioned in corruption trial - The Monitor: News

Garza sat stone-faced inside U.S. District Judge Randy Crane’s packed courtroom. He fiddled with a pen, but didn’t mark his yellow legal pad. Judge: Former deputy in Panama Unit case faces 15 years in prison. McALLEN — A federal judge said Friday that a former Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy convicted in a drug conspiracy is expected face 15 years in prison.

Judge: Former deputy in Panama Unit case faces 15 years in prison

Details into the recommended sentence for Jorge Garza, a former deputy convicted in August 2013 on a drug conspiracy, came at a detention hearing during which he asked U.S. District Judge Randy Crane to be released on bond ahead of his sentencing date next month. “I’ve read the (pre-sentence reports) and based on the recommendations you are looking at 15 years,” Crane said. Jurors convicted Garza in the case, which accused him of conducting fake traffic stops in order to fool drug traffickers into thinking their drugs had been seized while another group actually stole the drugs. The judge said that he would consider separating Garza from the case and sentencing him separately, but he had been keeping them all together to ensure that they all get a proportional sentence. Sentencing hearing for Panama Unit case pushed back.

McALLEN — The sentencing hearing for 11 of the 12 defendants in the Panama Unit case has been pushed back until April 29.

Sentencing hearing for Panama Unit case pushed back

On Wednesday morning, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane granted a motion filed by defense attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez — who represented former Hidalgo County sheriff’s Deputy Jorge Garza — in which she asked for more time in the case because she had conflicting trial dates. The case dealt with nine former lawmen — Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies and Mission police detectives — who pleaded guilty to stealing narcotics from local drug dealers only to turn around and sell them to another trafficker and his son.

Fernando Guerra and his son Fernando Guerra Jr. also pleaded guilty to drug charges and are awaiting sentencing. Father-son drug smuggling duo admit roles in Panama Unit scandal. McALLEN — A father and son stood before a federal judge Thursday, admitting their role in a drug trafficking scandal that has ended the law enforcement careers of seven men, with two other ex-cops set for trial this month.

Father-son drug smuggling duo admit roles in Panama Unit scandal

Fernando Guerra Sr. and his son, Fernando Jr., each pleaded guilty to one count of drug conspiracy at a hearing Thursday morning before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane. Both men face between 10 years and life in federal prison and up to $10 million in fines. A 49-year-old man with only a sixth-grade education and unable to speak English, the elder Guerra stood handcuffed in a green-and-black checkered, collared shirt with blue jeans.

Federal investigators have said he worked closely with former Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies to steal drug loads from unwitting criminals during traffic stops and raids, only to turn around and sell them to other traffickers and split the cash. Showing little emotion, Guerra heard the judge ask of his plea through a translator. Hidalgo County sheriff touts another drop in violent, property crimes - The Monitor: News. EDINBURG — An overall decrease in property and violent crime during 2013 highlights the unveiling of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Crime Report.

Hidalgo County sheriff touts another drop in violent, property crimes - The Monitor: News

Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the relentless efforts by sheriff’s deputies and investigators as well as a closer relationship with the community is the reason behind a 16 percent decrease in violent crimes and an 8.66 percent decrease in property crime from 2012. From 2012 to 2013, the number of violent crimes in Hidalgo County dipped from 526 to 438; property crimes dropped from 6,273 to 5,730, according to the report. 2013’s violent crimes comprised 15 killings, 52 rapes 126 robberies and 245 aggravated assaults.

Within the law enforcement community, crime is measured using a rate that shows the number of crimes per 100,000 people in the local population — a method that allows for comparing smaller cities and large metropolitan areas alike, Treviño said. Former Sheriff Treviño: 'I plead guilty, your honor' - The Monitor: Breaking. McALLEN — Five words sealed the fate of the man who used to be the highest law enforcement official in Hidalgo County.

Former Sheriff Treviño: 'I plead guilty, your honor' - The Monitor: Breaking

“I plead guilty, your honor,” former Sheriff Lupe Treviño said Monday morning when asked for his plea on the charge of money laundering. Wearing a black suit with a white shirt and red tie, Treviño spoke loudly and clearly when responding to the questions made by U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez. Panama Unit trial focus shifts to sheriff. McALLEN — The drug conspiracy trial of a former lawman took a dramatic turn Friday, when allegations shifted from the defendant to Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, who took the stand and countered allegations of corruption lodged by former deputies and a drug trafficker.

Panama Unit trial focus shifts to sheriff

After four days of testimony in the trial of former deputy Jorge Garza, defense attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez subpoenaed Treviño as a witness for the defense. On Friday morning, the county’s top cop approached the bench of U.S. District Judge Randy Crane and said he wanted to testify. Crane told Treviño that based on the testimony from other witnesses, there have been allegations of criminal activity and asked if the sheriff had consulted with an attorney. The judge added that he didn’t know if Treviño was the target of an investigation or not. The Shadow of the Son. On a sweltering July afternoon in South Texas, Jose Perez found himself handcuffed in the front seat of a white Chevy Tahoe making his amends with God.

The Shadow of the Son

His wife, also handcuffed, sat in the back seat, stricken with fear. Six armed men had just ransacked their home, turning over furniture and busting open cabinets, while another man pointed an assault rifle at their faces. The men wanted drugs. After finding nothing, they forced the 62-year-old Perez and his 59-year-old wife into the SUV. A man in a black Kevlar vest got behind the wheel, shouting obscenities and orders at the other men.

“Call someone that sells drugs or else,” the man told Perez. Perez didn’t need to hear details. The next morning, Perez couldn’t get over his anger. Perez and his wife recounted the bizarre, frightening robbery and kidnapping to a sympathetic female officer at the police station. Treviño in trouble? Maybe, but voters’ views unshaken by recent allegations - The Monitor: News. McALLEN – The day after Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño took the stand to deliver four hours of often contentious testimony in a federal corruption trial of one of his former deputies, some of his constituents reported the ongoing Panama Unit scandal hardly changed their opinions of him. “He’s an honest man,” Al Beltran, 67, said of the sheriff.

“Unfortunately, the characters that were involved in this unit and those that are being indicted, of course, they’re going to say anything they can to bring other people down.” Some people registered disappointment with the scandal itself, but still saw the sheriff as above the fray. “It’s always a letdown when we find out we’ve been sold out,” Daniel Cuellar, 49, said.

“It makes it very difficult for us to trust those in charge of protecting us.” Ethics complaint filed against Sheriff Lupe Treviño - The Monitor: News. EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño’s re-election campaign may have violated the Texas Election Code during July 2011 and June 2012, when the campaign received cash donations — two $5,000 payments — from reputed drug trafficker Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez. Treviño rejected both donations. On Monday, though, private investigator Robert Caples filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission about how Treviño handled the money. Both the refund process and timing may have violated the Texas Election Code. Former Sheriff Lupe Treviño Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering. Photo from Lupe Treviño's Facebook page The sheriff and his sons (from left to right) Juan Carlos and Jonathan Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño plead guilty Monday to money laundering, just two weeks after resigning from office.

For several months federal investigators had been looking into cash donations to the former sheriff’s campaign from a convicted drug trafficker named Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez. Last Friday, Treviño’s former chief of staff, Maria Patricia Medina, who also served as his campaign treasurer plead guilty to withholding information from a crime. During a hearing Friday in McAllen, Assistant U.S. Panama Unit trouble predates federal investigation - The Monitor: News. PHARR — Questions about the Panama Unit — a special Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office task force now under federal investigation — surfaced in July after jewelry seized during a raid went missing, according to a Monitor investigation. On July 26, the Panama Unit raided a home on East Eldora Road and took jewelry from the residents. The jewelry, though, wasn’t taken to the Mission Police Department, which served as the Panama Unit’s home base, and logged into evidence.

Instead, Senior Deputy Claudio Mata apparently kept the jewelry, possibly inside his vehicle, until asked about the valuables, said Sheriff Lupe Treviño. The incident prompted an internal investigation, which concluded Mata hadn’t actually stolen the jewelry, but had broken department policy. Mata received a five-day unpaid suspension and was re-assigned to patrol, generally considered a demotion within the Sheriff’s Office. The next month, the FBI and U.S. A Trial Reveals Depths of Drug-Related Corruption in Border County. Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño arrived at the federal courthouse in McAllen early Friday morning in a dark blue suit and red tie. He stood outside the courtroom with his hands in his pockets waiting for his name to be called by the judge. Inside the courtroom, curious constituents, former employees, and numerous federal agents were waiting to see what the sheriff would do. For the previous three days former employees and convicted drug dealers had given damaging testimony about corruption inside the sheriff’s agency, about officers collecting campaign contributions from drug dealers and the sheriff’s direct knowledge of his son’s rogue drug task force. “Will you plead the Fifth?” I asked him outside in the hallway. “Why should I?” The sheriff tried to act as though he had nothing to worry about.

It all started with Jorge Garza who would not go silently like the rest. Trial Focuses on Border Sheriff's Knowledge of Corrupt Drug Task Force. Border Law Enforcement Scandal Grows With Recent Arrest. Timeline: from arrest of sheriff's son Jonathan to Friday's resignation. August 2012 — Federal agents start investigating the Panama Unit, a corrupt anti-narcotics squad. Sheriff bows to 'external and internal' pressure, resigns. Chief of staff's resignation comes amid rumors of sheriff's impending exit. Lupe Treviño target of criminal probe; former assistant admits to campaign cover-up. McALLEN — Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño is accused of laundering campaign donations tied to a convicted drug trafficker, according to criminal information and court testimony Friday where his former chief of staff admitted to not reporting the crime.

Maria Patricia Medina pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to criminal information that relates to a money laundering investigation against former sheriff Treviño. Smuggler sentenced in Panama Unit indictment, but had little to do with conspiracy. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño announces resignation effective immediately - The Monitor: Breaking. EDINBURG — Months of speculation and weeks of intensifying rumors reached a crescendo Friday, as Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño resigned his post and aborted his decorated four-decade career in Texas law enforcement amid ongoing federal prosecutions of eight lawmen, a former commander and his youngest son. Sheriff Lupe Treviño Archives.

Border Trial That Exposed Police Corruption Ends In Guilty Verdict.