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Former Sheriff Lupe Treviño Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

by Published on
The sheriff and his sons (from left to right) Juan Carlos and Jonathan
Photo from Lupe Treviño's Facebook page
The sheriff and his sons (from left to right) Juan Carlos and Jonathan

Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño pleaded guilty Monday to money laundering, just two weeks after resigning from office.

For several months federal investigators had been looking into cash donations to the former sheriff’s campaign from a convicted drug trafficker named Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez. Last Friday, Treviño’s former chief of staff, Maria Patricia Medina, who also served as his campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to withholding information from a crime.

During a hearing Friday in McAllen, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Sturgis said that Medina knew that Treviño had deposited money from Gonzalez in banks under false names. Medina then falsified campaign reports to make it look like Treviño had returned the money to Gonzalez after it became public, according to the Monitor.

Scandal has shadowed Treviño since ICE’s homeland security investigations and the FBI arrested his son Jonathan Treviño, a former Mission police officer, in December 2012. Since at least 2006, 30-year-old Jonathan Treviño had run a street-level narcotics task force called the Panama Unit in Hidalgo County. In March 2013, Jonathan and other officers associated with the Panama Unit—including five Hidalgo County deputies—were indicted for “conspiring to possess with intent to distribute” cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.

Deputies and former deputies also told the Observer that Treviño had forced employees to work on his campaigns or be demoted. They said they were forced to buy and sell tickets to fundraisers to pay off Treviño’s campaign debt. Many of the deputies said that one of the sheriff’s commanders, Jose “Joe” Padilla, served as the sheriff’s chief enforcer, making sure deputies carried out his wishes. In December, Padilla was arrested on a seven-count indictment for drug trafficking and money laundering related to the El Gallo case. Padilla is still awaiting trial.

Miguel Flores, a former narcotics investigator at the sheriff’s office, said he felt relief after the sheriff’s admission of guilt Monday. For more than six months, Flores wore a wire and worked as an informant for the FBI to bring down the corrupt Panama Unit task force. Last May, Flores revealed for the first time to the Observer that he was an informant because he felt Treviño was retaliating against him after he found out Flores had been instrumental in his son’s indictment. Eventually, Flores was forced out of the department and was unemployed for several months. He recently found another job with a local police department. “This has ruined a lot of lives,” he said. “And It’s been a long hard journey for me, but I feel that it was worth it,” Flores said. “No one wanted to believe me but now they’ll know the truth.”

  • John West

    This is ridiculous that any pension should be given to these convict felons— the Panama Unit, Pat Medina, Joe Padilla, or Lupe Trevino. You have to be kidding that the families are requesting leniency, if you are able to commit the crime,then you must do the time. This adage is as old as the criminal justice system itself. What has are Justice System become. Is it a flea market for Justice left for negotiation? We would expect this from DA Rene Guerra! However, the citizens of Hidalgo County and I hope that the Judge does the right thing and abide by the law and equate their sentence severely due that these lawmen, Joe Padilla, Pat Medina, and Lupe Trevino were held to a high standard. They broke the trust each of us have and tainted all law enforcement officers who wear a badge. They knew what they were doing when they were flaunting the proceeds of their crime, as well as, enticing other law enforcement officers to join them in their illegal activities. They wore the uniform as a symbol not to serve and protect the community but wore it as a symbol to present themselves as officers of the law to take drugs from one drug dealer to sell to another, escort drugs throughout our county, and launder drug money.. I ask these family members of these convicted felons, why have prisons if you feel leniency is in order. Why not just let everyone run a mock committing crime and do away with law enforcement agencies all together. If you must be told, this would create state of anarchy. These lawmen need to payback for their misdeeds. What would have happened if they were not caught. The families surely would not have complained about the extra money within their budgets. These drugs would have ended up in some of our children’s possession. The sheriff office would have become nothing but a drug cartel. Well, I hope and know that the people of Hidalgo County believe that the scales of Justice should in no way lean towards any leniency for these convicted felons. LET THEM ENJOY THEIR PENSIONS BEHIND BARS. Let Justice prevail and be an example for others in law enforcement officers that there are consequences for their actions if they to decide to break the law!