McALLEN, Texas (AP) — A fired South Texas sheriff's commander whose indictment carried federal prosecutors a step closer to his boss pleaded guilty Thursday to accepting a bribe.
Former Hidalgo County sheriff's commander Jose Padilla entered the plea in federal court in McAllen after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors. In return, drug trafficking and money laundering counts are being dropped, said Angela Dodge, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in McAllen.
Padilla admitted taking cash from Tomas "El Gallo" Gonzalez, who has been accused of trafficking in drugs in 2011 and 2012. In return, he ran a variety of errands for Gonzalez and kept him informed of law enforcement activities.
Padilla can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $250,000 or twice the amount he received. He remains free on bond pending sentencing July 17.
Padilla was second-in-command to longtime Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino, who resigned March 28 and pleaded guilty to money laundering this week.
Padilla's plea is the latest in a series of arrests and convictions of law enforcement officers in Hidalgo County in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
In December 2012, one of Trevino's sons who was a police officer in Mission and two of Trevino's deputies were arrested in a federal drug sting. The three were part of a Hidalgo County and Mission Police Department joint drug task force.
Months after the arrests, they pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal drug loads and resell them to another trafficker. Nine other lawmen, including Jonathan Trevino, the sheriff's son, have been convicted on drug charges in connection to that task force, known as the Panama Unit.