Brisket tacos, smuggled phones, fake meth: Here's how 2 ex-BCSO jailers were busted

Ruben Hernandez, Gabriel Ortiz both take plea deals in smuggling scheme

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, Dillon Collier - Investigative Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The second of two fired Bexar County detention officers charged last year with smuggling methamphetamine into the Bexar County Adult Detention Center has accepted a plea deal.

Gabriel Robert Ortiz and Ruben Hernandez were arrested in July after a federal grand jury indicted them on drug charges. Hernandez signed off on a plea agreement on Dec. 19, more than a month after his co-defendant also struck a deal with prosecutors.

Hernandez was indicted on one count of attempting to possess the drug with the intent to distribute it, and another count of conspiring with Ortiz to possess the drug with the intent to distribute it.

Through the plea bargain, Hernandez agrees to plead guilty to the conspiracy charge, and in exchange, the federal government will drop the charge of attempting to possess the drug with the intent to distribute it.

Hernandez appeared in court Wednesday to finalize the plea agreement. He will be sentenced on April 8 at 9 a.m. and faces up to 20 years in prison.

He remains free on bond while awaiting sentencing.

"I pleaded guilty. That's really all I have to say. There's really not more to it. I pleaded guilty, and that's where I'm going with it," Hernandez said Wednesday as he left court.

Brisket tacos, burner phones, fake methamphetamine

According to federal court documents, investigators first became aware of the smuggling operation after Ortiz "repeatedly named his price of $700 to smuggle a cell phone to inmates," and said the price would rise to $900 after Christmas. Ortiz, the documents state, needed the smuggling cash to pay off debts.

Agents placed recording equipment in the detention center on Dec. 1, 2017. In April 2018, authorities said a cooperating inmate informed investigators that Ortiz had approached him offering to perform smuggling services in exchange for money.

On April 26, agents arranged for the cooperating inmate to ask Ortiz to smuggle an ounce of methamphetamine into the detention center in exchange for $1,400. The cooperating inmate, according to court documents, gave Ortiz a phone number for an individual outside the detention center, and Ortiz then met up with that individual in the parking lot of Southpark Mall. During that meeting, Ortiz picked up what he thought was street-packaged methamphetamine and three brisket tacos, the plea deal states.

Later that evening, Ortiz delivered the fake methamphetamine and brisket tacos to the cooperating inmate.

Documents state that Ortiz told a cooperating inmate that he was "anxious" to make another smuggling run before May 15 because he needed cash for a down payment on a new house. A second delivery date was set for May 15.

Similar to the first delivery, during the second delivery, Ortiz picked up what he thought was an ounce of methamphetamine. The person also gave Ortiz $1,000 in cash and a bag of tacos for the inmate.

Ortiz involves Hernandez in smuggling scheme

Sometime in May, Ortiz brought Hernandez in on the smuggling operation and Hernandez told the cooperating inmate that he'd be in charge of the next pickup. Ortiz, however, ended up handling the pickup because he had just purchased $1,800 worth of furniture for his new house and needed money.

Hernandez, court documents state, also told the cooperating inmate that he and Ortiz would be willing to help smuggle drugs into the jail when the inmate got out of jail.

Hernandez said they'd smuggle in the narcotics "using their uniforms and badges to protect drug transactions."

At the end of May, the cooperating inmate informed Ortiz he'd be changing the person with whom he worked outside the jail. The inmate gave Ortiz contact information for two undercover officers, and on June 21, Ortiz, Hernandez, the first outside individual and the two undercover officers met at a Taco Cabana.

During that meeting, Ortiz and Hernandez were given fake meth and tacos, along with $2,000 which they split between themselves. Ortiz delivered the tacos to the cooperating inmate at 1 a.m. the next day, telling the inmate, "It's in the sink." Documents state that, when the inmate went to the common area bathroom, he discovered the tacos in the sink.

When the inmate asked where the methamphetamine was, Ortiz said Hernandez would deliver it to him the next day. Hernandez then delivered what he thought was an ounce of meth to the inmate shortly before midnight on June 22.

Investigators caught up with Hernandez sometime after the June 21 transaction and confronted him about the smuggling operation. During that meeting, he admitted to working with Ortiz and smuggling what he thought was meth and non-drug-related contraband into the jail. Both were arrested July 26. 

Ortiz was also approached by investigators prior to the indictment and he admitted to three deliveries and working with Hernandez on the last delivery to smuggle what he thought was methamphetamine into the jail.

Court documents allege that the pair conspired to smuggle contraband into the detention center from May 4 to June 22.

Ortiz's plea agreement

On Nov. 6, Ortiz struck a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to conspiring with Hernandez to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. 

In exchange, the federal government will drop three other charges of attempting to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.

Ortiz will be sentenced Feb. 19 and faces up to 20 years in prison for the charge.

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