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4 south Texas local law enforcement officers charged with escorting and protecting loads of trafficked narcotics

MCALLEN, Texas – Two complaints were filed Thursday charging two Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) deputies and two Mission Police Department (MPD) officers with a drug trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

MPD officer Alexis Espinoza, 29, of Alamo, was arrested Wednesday and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos Thursday. A decision on his bond has not yet been determined by the court.

A second complaint was filed Thursday charging MPD officer Jonathan Trevino, 28, of McAllen; Fabian Rodriguez, 28, of Edinburg, and Gerardo Duran, 30, of Pharr, both with HCSO. They were arrested Thursday and appeared before Judge Ramos Friday.

According to court records, in early 2012 agents learned that members of HCSO's Panama Unit were involved in distributing narcotics. The Panama Unit is a task force designed to target narcotics trafficking in Hidalgo County, and is comprised of law enforcement officers from HCSO and MPD. This investigation revealed that members of the Panama Unit, including Trevino, Espinoza, Rodriguez and Duran, allegedly used their law enforcement positions to escort and protect loads of smuggled narcotics; and they were paid for their services.

The case is being investigated by the following agencies: the Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI, the Texas Rangers, and the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anibal Alanis and James Sturgis, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting the case.