MCALLEN, Texas - A former Sullivan City police chief was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison without parole for drug-trafficking, announced U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Hernan Guerra, 44, of Mission, Texas, on April 20 to 120 months in federal prison without parole, and further ordered he begin serving his sentence immediately. Guerra, who had been on bond, was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service immediately after the sentencing hearing. In addition to the prison term, the court ordered Guerra to serve a four-year-term of supervised release after he completes his prison sentence. Guerra will in due course be transferred to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.
Guerra was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of marijuana in January after he pleaded guilty to the federal drug trafficking offense. At that time Guerra admitted that as police chief of Sullivan City he assisted the drug-traffickers cross their loads of marijuana by alerting members of the illicit organization to the location of U.S. Border Patrol units. He also directed his officers to other locations to avoid them interfering with or intercepting the traffickers as they ran the loads of marijuana from the river into Sullivan City. Guerra was paid for the assistance he provided the traffickers. In determining the sentence he ultimately handed down, Judge Crane considered and commented upon Guerra's abuse of his position of trust as the police chief for Sullivan City noting that his conduct undermined the community's faith in law enforcement.
"We agree Guerra's abuse of his position undermines the community's faith in law enforcement," said U.S. Attorney Moreno. "However, we trust this investigation and prosecution serves as a significant step toward restoring that faith."
Another seven defendants who pleaded guilty with Guerra to the conspiracy charge for their involvement in the marijuana trafficking organization that Guerra protected were also sentenced April 20. The following six defendants sentenced on Wednesday pleaded guilty in January 2011:
- Renato Villalon, 34, of Sullivan City, who was a driver for the organization, was sentenced to 151 months confinement to be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release.
- Felix Gallardo Noyola, 38, of Mexico, whose role in the organization was to ride as a passenger in load vehicles throwing spikes to impede law enforcement vehicles, was sentenced to 80 months imprisonment to be followed by a four-year-term of supervised release.
- Noe Salinas, 30, of Sullivan City, a scout who also maintained a stash house for the organization, was sentenced to 78 months confinement and a four-year-term of supervised release.
- Michael Montelongo, 19, also of Sullivan City, whose role included conducting counter-surveillance for law enforcement on the U.S. side of the border, was sentenced to 60 months confinement as well as a four-year-term of supervised release.
- Two scouts for the organization, Juan Carlos Escalera, 30, and Angel Gilberto Martinez, 18, both of Sullivan City, were sentenced to 60 months and 30 months imprisonment, respectively, to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release.
The seventh defendant, Javier Francisco Pena Trevino, 41, of Sullivan City, pleaded guilty on Feb. 11 to acting as a scout for the organization. He was also sentenced Wednesday by Judge Crane. Trevino will serve a 37-month prison term and a three-year-term of supervised release.
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, dubbed Operation Missing Sky, leading to the charges and ultimately the conviction of Guerrra and others was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Starr County HIDTA Taskforce.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Profit, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.