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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sheriff Lupe Treviño testifies in Panama Unit trial

Borderland Beat

Ildefonso Ortiz | The Monitor

Son of Sheriff arrested by FBIMan who threatened Sheriff Found Dead

After four days of testimony in the trial of former deputy Jorge Garza, defense attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez subpoenaed Treviño as a witness for the defense.

Serious Allegations
James Phil Flores, another former deputy who pleaded guilty in the case, continued his testimony on Thursday morning.

Flores testified that he and other deputies were forced to buy fundraiser tickets for Treviño's re-election campaign.

The former deputy also testified that he even turned to drug traffickers to pay for fundraising meals.

Flores testified that one deputy had to take a loan to buy one of the expensive fundraising ticket books.

The drug conspiracy trial of a former lawman took a dramatic turn Friday, when allegations shifted from the defendant to Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, who took the stand and countered allegations of corruption lodged by former deputies and a drug trafficker.
On Friday morning, the county’s top cop approached the bench of U.S. District Judge Randy Crane and said he wanted to testify.

Crane told Treviño that based on the testimony from other witnesses, there have been allegations of criminal activity and asked if the sheriff had consulted with an attorney. The judge added that he didn’t know if Treviño was the target of an investigation or not.  

“You might be,” Crane told the sheriff.

The judge asked Treviño if he wished to invoke the Fifth Amendment, which protects him again self-incrimination.
But unlike one of his top leaders, the sheriff sat down and agreed to talk, saying he has no lawyer but knows his rights.

“As an elected official I believe the people have a right to hear my testimony,” Treviño said. “I have nothing to hide.”

Garza, the deputy on trial is accused of doing fake traffic stops so convicted drug dealers could dupe other drug dealers into thinking their loads were seized when in fact they were stolen.

Once he took the stand, Gutierrez began asking dozens of question about the command structure of the department and his role in fundraising.

During the trial, former deputy and convicted drug trafficker James Phil “J.P.” Flores said that deputies were subjected to a reign of terror under Cmdr. Jose “Joe” Padilla and were forced to participate in fundraisers for the sheriff’s political campaigns.

During his testimony, Treviño described Padilla as an “old school cop from the 70’s” who posed and authoritative figure.

“What you are describing Miss Gutierrez is a bully,” Treviño said.

The sheriff said that he has spoken with Padilla about his demeanor after two other deputies complained about his harsh personality.

“If Flores was being mistreated I see no reason why he would not have gone to my office to complain about treatment or mistreatment,” Treviño said.

Padilla was subpoenaed on Thursday, but pleaded the Fifth Amendment after being told that he was the target of a federal investigation. In addition to Padilla, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s investigator Charlie Vela also pleaded the Fifth Amendment. Vela had been implicated by convicted drug trafficker Fernando Guerra in the theft of cash from drug traffickers as well as scaring off angry drug dealers that the Guerra’s group had ripped off.

Gutierrez asked the sheriff why he hadn’t done the same as District Attorney Rene Guerra, who fired Vela that afternoon and terminated Padilla after his refusal to testify.

Treviño said that Vela had been implicated in felonious acts while Padilla had only been mentioned in administrative matters and not criminal acts of a felonious nature. Treviño said that if the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the FBI would call him about the investigation against Padilla, he would open an internal affairs case.

The sheriff said that if the witnesses who made the allegations went to his office and filled an affidavit he would also open an investigation.

“What would I investigate him for, pleading the fifth?” Treviño said. I’m not going to be impulsive and jump the gun.”

“You are protecting him,” Gutierrez said.

“That is absurd, I can’t believe you said that” Treviño retorted. “My concern is about not violating his civil rights; I have enough lawsuits already.

Gutierrez asked the sheriff about the Flores collecting money from the Guerra’s toward buying him a boat. Guerra’s son testified that he had given Flores $5,000, while Flores testified that he had collected $1,000.

“If anyone did, they used my name to collect the money and kept it,” Treviño said, adding that he had never heard about those allegations until he saw news and tweets about the testimony regarding the boat and a reporter who called, seeking comment. The sheriff said he does own a fishing boat that is valued at $25,000 — purchased with a check.

The sheriff denied having any knowledge of the Guerra’s criminal activity and claimed he was not active in the fundraising drives for his campaign rather letting committees handle that.-“The only money I received from the Guerra’s was a $1,000 check from Astro Trucking, which back then I didn’t know it was the Guerra’s or who they were for that matter,” Treviño said. “I don’t believe I ever received cash from the Guerra’s.”The sheriff is expected to continue his testimony on Monday morning. As he walked out of the courthouse, Treviño mumbled “who’s the one on trial?”
Prior to Treviño taking the stand, jurors heard testimony from former deputy and convicted drug trafficker Fabian Rodriguez, who testified that he worked closely with the Panama Unit and eventually became a member. The Panama Unit was a street level drug task force made up by sheriff’s deputies and Mission police. Their arrests garnered have media attention since one of the members, Jonathan Trevino, is the sheriff’s son, while Alexis Espinoza, son of Hidalgo Police Chief Rudy Espinoza, was not officially on the unit, but frequently associated himself with its members, Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, the unit was outside of the chain of command, with Jonathan Treviño handing down orders with an iron fist to the extent that the group’s leader, Sgt. Roy Mendez, had to check in with Jonathan before making any decisions.“I went from one monster to another — from Padilla to Jonathan,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez testified that to the best of his knowledge, the sheriff never saw any money stolen by the Panama Unit.

But the corrupt lawman said Jonathan Treviño always wanted a bigger cut of the drug proceeds and would skim off the top from some of the deals.

Recap points
Sheriff Responds
During a press conference for a murder case, Sheriff Treviño fired back against the allegations being raised in federal court.

Sheriff Treviño told Action 4 News that he denies any wrongdoing and that anyone who worked on his campaign did it strictly on a voluntary basis.

The sheriff, whose son Jonathan Treviño pleaded guilty to his role in the Panama Unit scandal, said forced campaigning on county time was not allowed.

Sheriff Treviño added that he once fired an employee who campaigned on county time.
“If you are going to work on my campaign as a personal employee you are going to do it on your own personal time," the sheriff said.

The sheriff also strongly denied allegations that he forced deputies to sell and buy tickets.
“It’s absolutely absurd," Sheriff Treviño said. “I don’t believe JP Flores would ever say Sheriff Trevino required him (to sell tickets).

Sheriff Treviño said he only makes appearances but does not deal with the money when it comes to campaign fundraising.

“It’s common knowledge that I do not participate in fundraising activities," the sheriff said

McALLEN — The drug conspiracy trial of a former Hidalgo County sheriff's deputy has persistently turned attention to his one-time boss, Sheriff Lupe Treviño, who in a dramatic turn took the stand Friday morning to respond to allegations of illegal campaign fundraising tactics and how much he knew of his deputies' illicit activities.

Jorge Garza, a retired warrant officer accused of helping to steal drug loads from smugglers for resale, is the only former lawman to stand trial in a scandal that has brought down the sheriff's son and called into question the integrity of Treviño, who has cast himself as a model lawman in a region where many have fallen victim to corruption.

Another eight have pleaded guilty to federal charges, including several members of a now-defunct multi-department, anti-narcotics task force called the Panama Unit.
Now in its fourth day, Garza's trial has increasingly raised questions about culture of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department that instilled unwavering loyalty to the sheriff and fear of his commanders.

A day after James Phil “J.P.” Flores, a former lawman involved in the case, testified about an intimidating office environment where employees were expected to raise money for the sheriff's various fundraising events, another former Hidalgo County Sheriff's Deputy Fabian Rodriguez, testified that you either played ball or face reprisals.

“(Joe Padilla) put fear in you,” Rodriguez testified about his former commander. “I'm fearing telling you this right now.”

Garza's defense attorney, Lilly Ann Gutierrez, subpoenaed several men implicated in the scandal, including Padilla and Charlie Vela, an investigator for the Hidalgo County District Attorney's Office who was promptly fired Thursday after invoking his 5th amendment right not to testify.

Undaunted, Gutierrez subpoenaed Treviño who agreed to testify.

Valley-Central, san antonio expressinagistmoniterMoniter


  1. JT such a greedy ass.

    Hey Chivis- Queen of Pacific not been deported yet as of yesterday-her lawyer said anyway

  2. see,no messicans in government! and no reelection,death penalty for corruption

    1. I know cause were too busy fighting a blind war on the city streets/oversea but i gues its every one by self. Sad...

  3. You have all these cops wanna be gangsters snitching on each other punk ass men, fucking pussies pleading guilty pinches ratas pansas blanca. Que se les lleve a la verga pinches sin werguensas, awanten la vara.

  4. Nice sketches. For our amusement, Havana? I thought you guys would post something on this criminal again. Thanks for the update

  5. what is the ave pay of an hidalgo co cop? judging by some of the homes ive seen with hdgo co patrol cars parked in front, id say way more than ave. my grandfather was a cop...he never lived that large. it all makes sense now. trevino kept clean by having his minions do the dirty work

  6. the question is , how bought out is this sheriff and all the other law enforcement along the border?. this has to be a major factor in the tons of drugs that make it into the lives of the people we love the most.
    it is very telling that his right hand man "commander pedilla" invoked his fifth amendment rights.

    1. who is worse,Lupe Trevino or sheriff arpaio?and what do they think of each other?somebody tell me please.operation long nails in progress,you people in charge,carry on!

  7. Crooked cops. Do they come any other way?

  8. Is everyone named Trevino crooked?

  9. Corruption cops everywhere! Is that surprising??? No! The same drugs which traverses Mexico also traverses the US. Are US cops dumber or less equipped than their mexican counterparts??? NO. So how come the drugs are flowing with the same ease through the US as through Mexico??? CORRUPTION!!!

  10. At the time of Metro 3's death, a lot of CDG's marijuana was stolen in Reynosa. The chaos that ensued might have been an impetus for the Panama Unit's officers to contrive of the idea to begin lifting drug dealers'product. The sons' of Hidalgo Co. Sheriff Lupe Trevino and the Hidalgo police chief were playing gangsta - cops on tax payers' dime. This wasn't a Hollywood production - this was real life!

  11. Dougnut benders gone wild!

  12. I see u FINALLY put the panama unit and Garza and Padilla trials on BB.what took u all so long? ?? This has ALL the key ingredients.big time drug trafficers(the guerras),ultra corrupt cops who already pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy (most of the panama unit) high level sherrifs department officers going on trial(padilla n garza)and last but not least the countys top cop that had been suspected by valley residents of wrongdoing from the beginning (Trevino) getting grilled in federal court. Grab ur popcorn ladies n gentlemen this is real life telenovela is about to get EVEN MORE interesting.

  13. I know this family. His last pachanga for election was pretty heavy. Some big underworld guys were there. I know the guy who paid for the mariaches and let me tell you, they weren't cheap. I also know that one shady dude gave 10 grand to his fund. Screw the Treviños. His nephew was caught with 500 pounds by a county deputy but was never charged with a damn thing. The mota, well it went to the Panama unit. Go figure

    1. no politician should have a fund,all of the corruption flows and floats around it,at least all pace should be taxed and any remaining funds expropriated.if a government would be of the people,by the people and for the people instead of a government of the people,by the government,for the rich or for those that want to be're welcome

  14. @ 12.35 u got any more of these inside stories,bro(or gal)???

  15. Ugh! These corrupt stinkers on both sides of the border areas. Un bolsón de putrefacción.

    And what's with the name of their corrupt Unit? Do they like to eat mariscos with aji chombo or something? into ceviche made with corvina?

    Rotten police! In the words of the Panas, ¡Que chucha sus madres pendejos! Have fun in prison.

    1. Lupe trevino,Mister corruption of the year tought he was covering his shitty ass but the stink is giving it all up,no matter new suit and white shirt.

  16. Must be hell when we can't even trust our own law enforcement officials. I wonder how many tipsters got ratted on. And how many criminals got tipped off? Puro pinche desmadre en el rio grande valle. Time to clean house on next election time.

    1. Trevino,pinche naco muerto de hambre,give him a name names before he's sent to the street to sell elotes!

  17. @1:59. Yes I've got a lot more on these guys. Treviños son had a good contact in the drug business that would organize drug trips from rip grande city ant tip them off on what time and what vehicle the drugs were being transported. They would make the stop and keep part of load. It will b interesting if the dealers who recieved the drugs are brought up in court.

  18. Bad Cop No Doughnut.

  19. this story needs to go to the forum and it needs updates like this one from krgv today the 5th of august. By the end of that day, several members of the unit, including Trevino's son, were arrested on drug conspiracy charges.

    Gutierrez also showed Trevino a series of photographs from his campaign events that showed him posing with members of the Panama Unit. In one photo, Gutierrez asked if Trevino recognized a man in a red shirt and bushy mustache standing just a few feet from him. Trevino said he did not.

    Gutierrez said that was Fernando Guerra Sr., the drug trafficker who has already pleaded guilty.

    After Guerra and his son testified last week that they had given several thousands of dollars in contributions for Trevino's re-election campaign, Trevino said his campaign reported a $1,000 contribution from the Guerras in 2011 - when he had no idea who they were.

  20. How can you claim to be the top cop in the valley and have your own son in a narc unit and not know who the guerra's are...

  21. edinburg pd investigators also ratted out fernando guerra,and the trevinos.Jealousy.

  22. Good dat charlie vela is fired they should lock his ass up to so he can feel. Hahaha dumass o would like to see his face. Dats a stupid investigator a lot of people r gonna start going down u law enfocemnt people think u all dat but no just cus u all got dat batch anf gun without it u all ain't nothing so watch it dnt be stupid like charlie vela

  23. Good dat he lost his job hahaha

  24. I've known Lupe and his two older sons for over 20 years. They are good people. It's a shame how the actions of one family member cast a huge shadow over everyone else. I'll continue to support him.

    1. Lmfao!! Go read lupe plead GUILTY to money laundering. Good people my ass!!! El CDG was onto their ass! Just type in Jonathan Trevino Panama unit. And go read the article on the Texas observer. These guys were fkn cowards!!!! Escorting loads to people and tten going to steal the same load later on! They lucky they got locked up and even then let's see how long they last. They stole tons from the CDG so I'm pretty sure a nice hit is going out

  25. a friend of mine was arrested in 2009, pulled over by local pd... Aida Palacios and Charlie Vela were there to help "arrest" him, he went to local pd but taken to county after. When DEA showed up on the scene, Palacios and Vela split the scene...coincidence? then Julio Davila (Palacios boyfriend) and attorney show up to bail him out of county... he explains he didnt hire them and he would not go with them... he is later released because they called his wife that they would get him out. He did get out but 2 years later he is called by federal agents to turn himself in for the load he was carrying...2 years later! when he hires an attorney (who is also representing these corrupt official) the attorney does not effectively counsel him... attorney doesnt look into false hot check reported for him. it doesnt exist...Palacios made up the hot check against him more criminal points! He is advised to plead guilty and is sentenced to 10 years!!! Judge Crane states he played a minor role but still issues him 10 years.... this Panama Unit and others involved with them in any manner should be ashamed of themselves. They have caused a lot of heartache for many others.


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