BREAKING: Border Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino (D) -- he stepped down a couple of weeks ago -- has pleaded guilty today to federal charges of money laundering, according to the McAllen Monitor.

Just 17 days after stepping down as sheriff and three days after his former chief of staff entered a related plea, Treviño stood before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez and pleaded guilty for his part in laundering campaign contributions that were tied to a convicted drug trafficker.

Testimony in court this morning suggested that the amount of money laundered could be anywhere between $70,000 and $120,000.

Treviño was composed as he entered his guilty plea. After the hearing with Judge Alvarez, Treviño appeared before US Magistrate Peter Ornsby, who set the former sheriff's bond at $30,000 unsecured, which means that Treviño could bond out with a simple signature.

Trevino presided over a sheriff's department that has been accused of a wide range of corruption. As the PJ Tatler and PJTV reported in 2012, the Hidalgo County Sheriff's department falsified crime statistics to serve both Trevino's and the Obama administration's political interests. In an exclusive hidden-camera video, a crime analyst with the Hidaldo County Sheriff's Department admitted that she and others within the department including Trevino himself change the way in which crimes are classified in order to improve the overall statistics.

Deputy: Hey what’s up? (unintelligible question)

Analyst: No, I can do it for you.

Deputy: Cool. (unintelligible, but he asks about changing a code)

Analyst: Huh?

Deputy: (unintelligible)

Analyst: I guess. Cause he’s the one changing everything.

Deputy: Changing the stats?

Analyst: (nods) He’s the one…

Deputy: Well how is he changing them?

Analyst: He reads the reports and fiddles with you if it’s not linking. Like, with a robbery, he redrizzles it down to a simple, like an, if it’s like uh, aggravated assault (looks away to see if anyone can hear), he orders a downgrade to assault. Or if…

Deputy: It’s real simple to do because most people are gonna, think you’re gonna have more.

(Analyst tilts head skeptically)

Deputy: You can justify it both ways.

Analyst:  Yeah, but some of them, no. (crosstalk) Like, as far as the standards go, from the UCR, yeah.

Deputy: So. You can get in trouble.

Analyst: Hm?

Deputy: You can get in trouble?

Analyst: Not us, but…yeah the sheriff.

Deputy: Him (points in the direction of the sheriff’s office).

Analyst: Yeah. Not me.

The department's anti-narcotics Panama Unit, in which Trevino's son was an officer, has been the subject of half a dozen indictments. Ten of its officers, including Jonathan Trevino, have been charged with a range of crimes including stealing drugs with intent to distribute them.

Trevino's department remains accused not only of falsifying crime statistics to attract and hold federal COPS grants, but also of pressuring deputies into supporting him politically or face losing their jobs.

Trevino has been Hidalgo County Sheriff since 2005. He now faces the possibility of 20 years in prison and fines.

Hidalgo County is one of the most important counties along the US-Mexico border. Its county seat, McAllen, is one of the nation's fastest-growing cities. It also has the most border crossing points of any county along the Texas-Mexico border. Across the border from McAllen is Reynosa, which has been among Mexico's most violence-plagued cities in that country's drug war.