HOUSTON – A South Texas law enforcement officer was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison to be followed by five years of supervised release for drug trafficking.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston, Texas, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation.
Hector Beltran, 44, a resident of Edinburg, Texas, was convicted on July 22, 2019, for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Beltran was a former Edinburg Police Department K-9 officer.
In handing down the sentence, the court noted Beltran abused his position of trust as a law enforcement officer and possessed a firearm during the commission of the offense.
During the two-week trial, the jury heard that the investigation began in 2011 when authorities targeted a drug trafficking organization involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. During the course of the investigation, agents learned the organization was stealing cocaine and marijuana from the source of supply with the assistance of law enforcement officers. The scheme was to pose as drug transporters. However, instead of transporting the cocaine and marijuana, they sold the drugs and told the source of supply that law enforcement had seized the narcotics.
In their effort to cover up the theft, the drug trafficking organization created fake bundles of cocaine and marijuana and used LEOs to seize it. Once authorities seized the fake cocaine and marijuana, the drug trafficking organization provided law enforcement seizure documents to the source of supply.
The investigation also revealed that Beltran, while an Edinburg police officer, conducted more than 10 seizures of fake drugs. Most involved the drug trafficking organization leaving the fake drug bundles in abandoned vehicles, giving Beltran the vehicle’s location and having him seize them. Since the seizures did not involve any arrests, the fake drugs were not tested and put in evidence lockers.
Upon discovery of the scheme, a review of Beltran’s drug seizures revealed bundles of suspected marijuana contained hay, while bundles of suspected cocaine contained only trace amounts of cocaine hydrochloride.
Testimony at trial showed Beltran personally conducted and assisted other law enforcement agencies with the seizure of approximately 600 kilograms of fake marijuana and 168 kilograms of fake cocaine. The jury also heard the drug trafficking organization paid Beltran for his participation in each seizure of fake drugs.
Beltran testified at trial and denied participating in the scheme. The jury did not believe his claims and ultimately found him guilty.
Previously released on bond, Beltran was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation has led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 individuals, including Beltran and five other law enforcement officers. The five law enforcement officers included: two U.S. Border Patrol agents; officers from the Harris County (Texas) Constable’s Office and the Houston and Edcouch (Texas) Police departments; and a former chief of the La Joya (Texas) Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Casey N. MacDonald and Anibal J. Alaniz prosecuted the case.