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Narcotics
01/21/2016

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Former South Texas police officer and co-defendant sentenced to 7 and 5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to traffic cocaine

MCALLEN, Texas — A former South Texas police investigator and co-defendant were sentenced Thursday following their conviction of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.  This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force in Rio Grande City, Texas.

Noel Pena, 29, of Rio Grande City, who had been assigned to the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force, and Hector Salinas-Hinojosa, 21, of Roma, Texas, were sentenced Jan. 21, by U.S. Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa. Judge Hinojosa ordered Pena to serve 84 months in federal prison, while Salinas will serve a 60-month term. Both sentences will also be followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court took into consideration not only their illicit activity but also the fact that each, independent of each other, had cooperated with authorities after their respective arrest.

"The court's sentence appropriately punished the two defendants in this case for their involvement in a major drug trafficking organization that had a negative impact on the Rio Grande Valley and other surrounding communities," said Shane M. Folden, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to dismantle criminal organizations who blatantly ignore the laws of this nation."

According to court documents, both men were arrested in mid-April 2015, after they conspired to provide a fake police report to an undercover officer acting as a cocaine trafficker. Per the criminal complaint issued at the time, on April 9, 2015, Salinas and Pena met with the undercover officer and agreed to provide a fake police report to make it appear that 10 kilograms of cocaine had been seized by law enforcement in exchange for $10,000. At the time of the meeting, the undercover officer provided $5,000 as a down payment for the report.

As part of the undercover operation, on April 11, 2015, two kilograms of cocaine were left at a stash house location in Garceno. After being "tipped" off to the location, Pena proceeded to the residence, "found" the cocaine and then obtained a state search warrant to seize it.

As part of the agreement, the undercover officer had provided two of the eight kilograms to establish an actual seizure. A week later, Salinas provided the report to the officer and was paid the remaining $5,000.

At the time of his plea, Pena agreed that after Salinas provided the fake report, Pena met with him in the early evening hours at a cemetery in Rio Grande City. Salinas then paid Pena $1,500 for his services. Salinas had been able to provide the fake report based on the details in the search warrant provided earlier by Pena.

Both have been in custody since the day of their respective arrests where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Ted Imperato, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/09/2016