PJM/PJTV readers may recall that a few months back we exposed rampant corruption inside the Hidalgo County, TX Sheriff’s Department. In our three-part Border Conspiracy series we showed exclusive hidden-camera video in which a crime analyst admitted that the department falsifies its crime statistics in order to make the vital border county appear to be much safer than it really is. We also presented exclusive video of a current sheriff’s deputy who alleged that the department has been infiltrated by the Mexican drug cartels.
Hidalgo County’s falsified crime statistics serve several purposes. They help Sheriff Lupe Treviño make the case that his policies are working to reduce crime. They help the department secure federal grants to purchase equipment and enlarge its staff. They also help the Obama administration sell its position that the U.S.-Mexico border is as “safe as it has ever been” despite the violent drug war raging in Mexico. They also help hide the possible infiltration of the department by the cartels, as the deputy described has been happening.
This week, there have been several arrests of personnel working in the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department. Specifically, the department’s Panama Unit has been raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Jonathan Treviño is among at least four local sheriff’s deputies and local police officers who were arrested on suspicion of narcotics trafficking.
McALLEN — Federal authorities have charged four local law enforcement officers — including the sons of the Hidalgo County Sheriff and Hidalgo police chief — in a drug conspiracy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Mission police officer Alexis Espinoza, 29, of Alamo, was arrested Wednesday evening and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos this morning. Espinoza is the son of Hidalgo police Chief Rudy Espinoza, who was hired from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office in October.
Also charged is Jonathan Treviño, 28, a Mission police officer and son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño. Treviño went into federal custody Wednesday evening and was released, authorities said, before returning to custody Thursday afternoon, when he was placed under arrest.
The Panama Unit is funded in part by federal COPS program grants. Hidalgo County residents have told me that the unit has been used to harass and oppress opponents of Sheriff Treviño. Sources also say that many officers within the department have had their jobs terminated for questioning the department’s practices.
A veterans group is now calling on Sheriff Treviño, who was just re-elected to another term in November, to resign.
Keeping his job would seem to be the least of Sheriff Lupe Treviño’s worries now.
One additional word about Hidalgo County. Sources have repeatedly told me that the local media, both broadcast and print, have been aware of the evidence of corruption in the sheriff’s department for quite a while. But either out of fear or loyalty, they have failed to report it. The FBI’s arrests may have finally forced their hands.