MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — Two South Texas men waived their detention hearings and remained in federal custody Thursday for allegedly using corrupt law enforcement officers to steal drugs from other drug traffickers.
The bond hearings for Fernando Guerra Jr. and his father, Fernando Guerra Sr., had been scheduled for Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
According to court documents filed in Guerra Sr.'s case, federal agents were told by a confidential source in August 2012 that he heads a drug trafficking organization that was known to steal drugs from other traffickers with the help of corrupt law enforcement officers.
In September, a confidential informant met with Guerra Sr. to discuss how the theft would occur. Guerra Sr. would pose as someone who would transport the drugs.
Guerra Sr. told the confidential informant that whoever was responsible for delivering the cocaine him at the pre-determined location would be stopped by corrupt police officers and arrested.
"According to Guerra Sr. and Fernando Guerra Jr., the driver would be charged with only a portion of the narcotics and the rest would be given to Guerra Sr. and Guerra Jr. by the corrupt law enforcement officials," according to documents filed in the case. The elder Guerra would then sell the stolen cocaine and give the confidential informant 30 percent of the proceeds.
Attorneys for the Guerras did not immediately return calls Thursday. Guerra Sr., who made his initial appearance in court Feb. 8, has been charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. The complaint against Guerra Jr. remained sealed Thursday, but he was named in his father's complaint and arrested on Feb. 7.
The use of corrupt police to steal drugs parallels another case revealed in December involving a law enforcement task force called the Panama Unit.
In that case, four law enforcement officers — two from the Mission Police department and two Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies — were arrested and charged with drug conspiracies. They are awaiting trial. Two were sons of the city of Hidalgo's police chief and the Hidalgo County Sheriff.
The Panama Unit was formed several years ago as a joint task force to combat street-level drug traffic in Mission. The sheriff's office disbanded the group in January.
Federal prosecutors would not confirm Thursday that the corrupt officers in the Guerras' cases were members of the Panama Unit.
However Al Alvarez, a lawyer representing one of the former Mission police officers, said federal prosecutors surprised defense attorneys at a hearing Thursday on the Panama Unit case by saying that they planned to issue a superceding indictment March 1. He said he did not know what those additional charges would be.
Documents filed as part of the Panama Unit case also reference a tip to agents in August 2012 — the same month the tip came in the Guerras' case — about two task force members stealing drugs. That tip eventually led to a sting that snared the four Panama Unit members for escorting cocaine loads.