Prosecution of South Texas lawmen widens

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Associated Press

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 6:02 PM

MCALLEN, Texas (AP) — A seventh former deputy of a South Texas sheriff's department appeared in court Tuesday on drug conspiracy charges in a federal investigation that has been expanding since last year.

Former Hidalgo County sheriff's Deputy Jorge Garza made his initial appearance in federal court in McAllen a day after his arrest, according to court records. Garza is just the latest member of the department who prosecutors say helped steal or protect drugs to be resold by a trafficker.

Garza's attorney declined to comment.

Two former Mission police department officers — one who was the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino and the other who is the son of Hidalgo Police Chief Rodolfo "Rudy" Espinoza — also were charged in December in what began as the investigation of a joint drug task force between the sheriff's office and Mission police.

The task force has now been disbanded and its former members are awaiting trial.

Prosecutors say Garza and James Phil Flores, another former deputy arrested last month, were paid thousands of dollars in the scheme by Fernando Guerra Sr.

Guerra, who also is awaiting trial with his son, would arrange to buy drug shipments and then use crooked police to intercept the deliveries, often with the sellers watching so they would believe the drugs had been seized, according to court records. The corrupt police would then give the drugs to Guerra for resale.

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