A Texas judge sentenced a former Edcouch Police Department lieutenant to 39 months in a federal prison on drug trafficking charges. The sentence was handed down on Oct. 2. The 43-year-old man entered a guilty plea in December 2017 to possessing more than 500 grams of powder cocaine with the intent to distribute after entering into a negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors. Official records reveal that before serving with the EPD, the man worked with the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office and the Elsa, Santa Rosa, Weslaco, Progreso and La Villa police departments.
The man's alleged activities were discovered during a federal investigation into drug trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley according to reports. He was taken into custody in April 2016 after Department of Homeland Security agents learned that a local drug trafficking gang were supplied with narcotics by corrupt law enforcement officers who staged fake drug seizures. The drugs that prosecutors claim the man planned to distribute were part of a 17 kilogram cocaine haul found in an abandoned vehicle.
The drugs found in the car were wrapped in 15 packages according to police records, but two of these packages were found to contain blocks of wood instead of cocaine when they were examined by officers with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force. Prosecutors believe that the man took the drugs during the four days that they were in the custody of the EPD.
The penalties for federal drug crimes can be severe, and experienced criminal defense attorneys may pursue a plea arrangement when the evidence supporting such charges is convincing. Prosecutors may be receptive to a negotiated settlement because they are judged on their results and taking even a strong case to court involves at least some risk.
Source: The Texas Patch, "Former Texas Police Officer Sentenced For Drug Trafficking", Fernando Alfonso, Oct. 3, 2018
Source: The Monitor, "Ex-Edcouch cop accused in elaborate drug heist gets 39 months", Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro, Oct. 4, 2018