Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
Four Texas police officers charged with escorting loads of narcotics for pay
Two deputies and two police officers in the Hidalgo County, Texas area have been charged with protecting drug smugglers’ shipments of narcotics through the area.
According to a Dec. 13 statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas, two of the officers are with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and two are with Mission Police Department (MPD) officers. Reportedly the men allegedly used their positions to get thousands of dollars for facilitating and protecting drug shipments.
Two of the men are also reportedly the sons of high-ranking local police officials in the area in south Texas, west of Brownesville.
MPD officer Alexis Espinoza, 29, of Alamo, TX, was arrested on Dec. 12. A decision on bond has not yet been set, said federal prosecutors. Local press reports said Espinoza is the son of Hidalgo police Chief Rudy Espinoza.
A second complaint was filed on Dec. 12 charging McAllen, TX resident Jonathan Trevino, 28, also from MPD, and Fabian Rodriguez, 28, of Edinburg, and Gerardo Duran, 30, of Pharr, both with the HCSO. Treviño is reportedly the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño.
Law enforcement officials told local news outlets that Immigration and Customs Enforcement led an internal investigation into Alexis Espinoza, who was assigned to an ICE task force at Mission police. The other three suspects were under investigation by the FBI. Participating in the probe were the Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Rangers and Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General.
Jonathan Trevino, Rodriguez and Duran were arrested on Dec. 13.
According to court documents, earlier this year, federal agents learned that members of the HCSO Panama Unit were involved in the distribution of narcotics. The Panama Unit is a task force designed to target narcotics trafficking in Hidalgo County and is composed of law enforcement officers from HCSO and MPD. The investigation revealed that members of the Panama Unit, including Trevino, Espinoza, Rodriguez, and Duran, allegedly used their positions as law enforcement personnel to escort and protect loads of narcotics and were paid for their services.