Accusations of Favors to Mexican Drug Lords by Texas Sheriff's Office Surface in Hearing
MCALLEN, Texas—Accusations about Mexican drug traffickers receiving favors from Texas cops and rampant bribery were made by a former sheriff’s commander during the sentencing of another high ranking member in one of South Texas’ largest law enforcement agencies.
On Thursday, former commander Jose Padilla took the stand during the sentencing hearing of former Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Chief of Staff Patricia Medina where he claimed to have taken $260,000 from Mexican drug lord Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez and giving about $150,000 to former sheriff Lupe Trevino directly or through Medina while keeping $90,000 in dirty money. The moneys were collected during a three year period and passed off as campaign donations, he claimed.
“It was all for the sheriff,” Padilla claimed, saying that the amounts of money were an estimate because since it was all done in cash there was no trace. Padilla’s credibility came into question during the hearing which went on for more than two hours.
“Did you report that in your income taxes?” asked Chief U. S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa during the hearing, to which Padilla said he hadn’t.
Padilla had been called to clarify Medina’s role, who had only been charged with one count of misprision—covering up a felony. Since Medina is a U.S. resident, she could have been eligible for deportation. According to some of the conversations between prosecutors and the judge, authorities charged Medina with what they could prove since her role was a low one. According to court records, they could prove that she doctored campaign reports to hide a $10,000 donation from Gonzalez. For that offense, Hinojosa handed down a prison term of 11 months and a $2,000 fine.
During the hearing, Padilla talked about how Gonzalez would constantly call for favors. It was during that testimony that Hinojosa asked the former commander about calling off a drug raid at Gonzalez’s ranch, where deputies found 2,000 pounds of marijuana and arrested the drug lord’s nephew.
According to some of the discussion, Padilla allegedly helped contact a justice of the peace to help get the man released. He also allegedly had a former lieutenant call the drug lord pretending to be Trevino in order to get more money on the side.
“I don’t recall,” the former commander said, to which Hinojosa retorted, “You have been recalling everything and all of a sudden you don’t remember this?”
Padilla also talked about a robbery at the drug lord’s warehouse where one employee was allegedly beaten and killed which was not reported to authorities.
“He (Gonzalez) said we take care of our own,” the former commander said.
As Hinojosa was finishing the hearing, he stopped and asked, “What about this detail in the report that the only person that ever saw Mr. Trevino and Mr. Gonzalez together was murdered?”
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Sturgis said the case was being handled by the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.
The murder that Hinojosa asked about appears to be the slaying of famed "Corrido" singer Jesus “Chuy” Quintanilla, whose body was found with two gunshot wounds to his head just yards from his truck in an remote orange grove north of Mission Texas in late April 2013; the case remains unsolved.
Sources close to Trevino claim the allegations are baseless.
Former Sheriff Lupe Trevino is out on bond pending his surrender to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to serve a 5-year prison term for money laundering; he has filed an appeal. Padilla is out on bond awaiting his sentencing for bribery in September.
Follow Ildefonso Ortiz on Twitter @ildefonsoortiz.