CROSBY, Texas – Nine people, including six law enforcement officers, accused of running an illegal racetrack in Crosby made their first court appearance Monday morning. All were charged with racing without a license.
Investigators raided the Rancho El Herradero Training Center, on 12402 Sralla Road, saying it was a front for illegal horse racing and gambling. Authorities said they spent 11 months investigating the property and say the track hired off duty cops to provide security; those officers are accused of looking the other way when illegal gambling was going on.
“The El Herradero Ranch ran racing every Saturday that went on during the day. Music, there were spectators, there were concession stands, there was racing and that would go on every Saturday,” said Angela Weltin, prosecutor.
Neighbors said they would always hear the commotion.
“A lot of loud music, a lot of carrying on; we had to put up with it like everyone else,” said Don Newbury, a neighbor.
The Harris County District Attorney’s office said the officers arrested include Harris County Pct. 1 deputy constables Secar Guadelupe Rangel and Joel Garcia, DPS State Trooper Richard Rene Rivera, reserve Fort Bend County Pct. 2 deputy constables David Green and Edward Scott and reserve Maverick County Sheriff’s Office deputy Carlos Garza.
Defense attorneys maintained their clients’ innocence, and possibly their ignorance, to what was allegedly going on.
“I believe the fact that there were officers with good reputations working there kind of shows you that not everything is as clear as it should be,” defense attorney Carlos Rodriguez said.
Also arrested were three civilians — Reginaldo Mandujano, Diana Marie Salinas and Consuelo Rivera.
Rivera is also accused of impersonating a police officer. Prosecutors said she wore a jacket that said “police” on it.
“There is always wannabes out there, I guess she was one of those and didn’t realize what trouble she can get into,” said Johnny Schueneman, a neighbor.
Neighbors are hoping to now be able to get their Saturdays back.
“Every Saturday night, you can have a dance anywhere on this street,” said Justin Grant, a neighbor.
Another neighbor said they just starting making it a point to stay up late on Saturdays.
“Peace officers take an oath to uphold the law,” said Terese Buess of the DA’s Public Integrity Division. “To discover them actually working in their official capacity to provide security for organized criminal enterprises is extremely alarming and disappointing. “
Harris County Pct. 1 Constable Alan Rosen said he fired the two deputies from his agency the minute they were arrested.
”I don’t tolerate crime on the street and I don’t tolerate it in my office,” said Rosen.
A group of men who identified themselves as the owners of the Rancho El Herradero Training Center deny any illegal activity was going on at the facility.
“We have no gambling allowed,” said one of the men, who refused to give his name. “I don’t know why they think there is gambling here.”
Neighbors said they are relieved the operation was busted. Authorities say more arrests could be made.