Texas Police Forced Man to Set Up Drug Deal So They Could Take a Kilo of Coke for Themselves
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South Texas lawmen ransacked an elderly couple's home looking for drugs, and finding none, forced the husband to set up a cocaine dealer and took a kilo for themselves, the couple claim in court.
Jose and Maria Perez sued Hidalgo County, Sheriff Guadalupe "Lupe" Trevino and the City of Mission in Federal Court.
Five sheriff's officers, including members of the unit mentioned in the Perezes' lawsuit, pleaded guilty this week to drug charges.
"In July 2012, Jose G. Perez and his wife, Maria Guadalupe Perez ... were sitting in their home when six armed men burst into their home demanding drugs," the complaint states. "These invaders were agents and officers of the Panama Unit of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department and officers of the Mission Police Department. These intruders proceeded to ransack the furniture and broke open cabinets searching for their illegal prize.
"When the intruders found nothing in the home of plaintiffs, they forced the elderly couple into an unmarked SUV, and told Jose G. Perez to 'call someone that sells drugs or else.'
"The driver threatened Perez that 'if he didn't call someone right away, [he] was going to take him somewhere, and you know what I mean.'
"Jose G. Perez got on his cell phone and started dialing, and located someone who agreed to meet the invaders at Matt's Cash & Carry in Pharr, Texas. Soon thereafter, a car pulled up and opened his trunk to reveal 2 kilos of cocaine worth approximately $50,000.00.
"The invaders released plaintiffs and told them not to use their cell phones or look back. Mission Police records later revealed that the arrest and confiscation of the 2 kilos of cocaine was reported to be less than one-half the amount of cocaine seized."
Jose Perez claims that during interviews after the incident, Sheriff Trevino embarrassed him by calling him "a small-time drug dealer," though he has no criminal record.
The Perezes seek damages for civil rights violations and mental anguish.
They are represented by James Grissom of McAllen.
On Wednesday, the day after the Perezes filed their lawsuit, five former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputies, including members of the aforementioned "Panama Unit," pleaded guilty to using their badges to steal drugs and money, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
The Panama Unit was a drug task force run by the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office, with deputies and officers from the Mission Police Department.
Former Panama Unit members Claudio Mata, 35, Jonathan Trevino, 29, and Eric Alcantar, 29, all of McAllen, and Salvador Arguello, 34, of Edinburg, pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine, prosecutors said in the statement.
A fifth former Hidalgo County Sheriff's deputy, Gerardo Mendoza-Duran, 30, of Pharr, pleaded guilty to attempting to aid and abet the possession with the intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine.
"From 2010 to December of 2012, Trevino, Arguello, Mata and Alcantar utilized their positions as law enforcement officers to steal narcotics and currency. ... The investigation revealed the defendants, upon learning the location of drugs and currency, would use their positions to gain entry into residences and vehicles in order to steal the contraband. Subsequently, the narcotics would be sold to other traffickers for a profit," prosecutors said in the statement.
"Additionally, in exchange for thousands of dollars, Trevino and Mendoza-Duran agreed to use their law enforcement positions to escort multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine as it traveled through Hidalgo County."
All five men face up to 10 years to life in federal prison and $10 million fines. They will be sentenced on Sept. 10.
Drug-related corruption has long been a problem in South Texas sheriff's offices.