Disbanded after the first indictments came down in December, all seven members of a Rio Grande Valley drug task force known as the Panama Unit now face federal conspiracy charges.
The latest indictment on Thursday names the remaining three ex-Hidalgo County deputies: Salvador Joel Arguello, Claudio Alberto Mata and Eric Michael Alcantar.
Accused of being paid to escort and protect drug loads over the last three years, the prior indictment included now former deputies Fabian Rodriguez and Gerardo Mendoza-Duran, as well as Jonathan Trevino, a Mission Police detective at the time, who also is the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino.
Also indicted earlier was Alexis Espinoza, the son of the Hidalgo city police chief Rudy Espinoza. The younger Espinoza was a Mission police detective assigned to a federal task force.
Rene Guerra, the Hidalgo County district attorney, said, “It’s just unfortunate that they’re related to law enforcement families.”
But Guerra said as a result of the indictments, he is throwing out the cases submitted by the Panama Unit.
“We’re probably going to dismiss all of them, the ones that are pending,” Guerra said.
However, Guerra said he doesn’t believe the indictments are a sign the drug cartels are trying harder to corrupt law enforcement in the Rio Grande Valley, a prime gateway for drugs from Mexico.
Guerra said, “I think it’s just some idiot who said, ‘I want to make sure my loads go through and somebody’s willing to take money.’”
The Hidalgo County district attorney for three decades said it would be “nearly impossible to run the gauntlet of law enforcement here.”
Guerra said he doesn’t consider the high profile indictments proof that corruption among law enforcement is any worse.
“We have many more officers who are law abiding and doing a good job,” Guerra said.