Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, the former sheriff of Hidalgo County and once one of the most powerful lawmen on the border, was sentenced to five years in jail Thursday and a $60,000 fine for money laundering. The sentencing of the former sheriff capped off a two-year corruption scandal that included his son Jonathan Treviño and several other members of law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley.
First elected in 2005, the 65-year-old Treviño was forced to resign in March after being charged by federal prosecutors. Treviño pleaded guilty in April to one count of money laundering. According to prosecutors, he took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a Weslaco drug trafficker named Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez.
At the sentencing, Treviño—who had won his last election with 80 percent of the vote—apologized to voters, his family and fellow law enforcement officers and told U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez at the McAllen hearing that he was “embarrassed” and “remorseful,” according to Sergio Chapa, from the Rio Grande Valley’s KGBT-TV.
In December 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI arrested the sheriff’s son, Jonathan Treviño, a former Mission police officer. Jonathan’s arrest sparked two years of speculation among Valley residents about whether the sheriff was involved in illegal activities, which he repeatedly denied.
Since at least 2006, 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. Treviño and other Panama Unit members are now serving time in federal prison.
Former deputy Miguel Flores was at Treviño’s sentencing Thursday. He became an FBI informant after Jonathan Treviño and members of the Panama Unit tried to recruit him in 2012. Now a corporal with the La Joya Police Department, Flores told the Observer that Treviño’s five-year sentence was fair. But he said corruption is still a problem in the Rio Grande Valley. “I believe it will send a message but not everyone will get it,” he said. “It’s a way of life.”