MCALLEN, TX — Five defendants, all former law enforcement officers, have been ordered to federal prison for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Jorge Garza, 60, of Edinburg, was convicted in August 2013 after six days of trial, while Fernando Guerra Jr., 24, Claudio Mata, 35, and James Phil Flores, 47, all of Edinburg, and Gerardo Mendoza-Duran, 31, of Pharr, all previously pleaded guilty in relation to the case.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed Mata a total sentence of 140 months in federal prison. Garza received a sentence of 121 months, while Flores was sentenced to a 120-month term of imprisonment. Mendoza-Duran and Flores both received 96-month terms.
“The prosecution of corrupt law enforcement officers will always be a priority of this office in order to ensure the community’s faith in our judicial system,” said Magidson. “The sentencings today represent part of that continuing effort.”
Fernando Guerra Sr., 48, Jonathan Trevino, 29, Eric Alcantar, 29, Alexis Espinoza, 30, all of McAllen, Salvador Arguello, 34, of Edinburg, and Fabian Rodriguez, 29, of Edcouch, have all also pleaded guilty in the case and are expected to be sentenced tomorrow.
Arguello, Mata, Alcantar and Rodriguez were former members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the now infamous and defunct Panama Unit. Espinoza was a former Mission Police Officer, as was Trevino who also served on the Panama Unit. Mendoza-Duran, Flores and Garza were all members of the HCSO, but not part of the Panama Unit itself. All were convicted of using their positions as law enforcement officers to traffic narcotics.
“Today’s sentencing of law enforcement officials involved in crimes they are sworn to investigate serves as a sobering warning about the consequences of violating the public's trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in San Antonio. “While HSI is saddened by the circumstances that brought this sentencing to bare, HSI feels justice has been served.”
The investigation revealed that from 2010 through 2012, the defendants used their positions to steal narcotics and currency from local drug traffickers. The stolen narcotics were then re-distributed to Guerra Sr. In addition, Trevino, Espinoza and Mendoza-Duran attempted to assist narcotics traffickers by escorting loads of cocaine which travelled through Hidalgo County in exchange for thousands of dollars.
The Guerras, Flores and Garza were also convicted for their roles in the distribution of stolen narcotics. Flores and Garza assisted Guerra Sr. and Jr. by performing false traffic stops utilizing HCSO vehicles in order to assist the Guerras with the theft of the narcotics.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by HSI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Office of Professional Responsibility, FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorneys James Sturgis and Anibal Alaniz prosecuted the case.