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July 16, 2014McAllen, TX, United StatesFinancial Crimes

Former south Texas sheriff sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for money laundering drug smuggling proceeds

MCALLEN, Texas — A former Hidalgo County Sheriff in south Texas was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

Guadalupe Trevino, aka Lupe Trevino, 64, from McAllen, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez to 60 months imprisonment. Calling this day a "sad" one for Hidalgo County, Alvarez upwardly departed from the recommended guidelines and handed down Trevino's sentence. The judge also ordered Trevino to pay a $60,000 fine, and serve a two-year-term of supervised release after he completes his prison sentence. The former sheriff pleaded guilty to the charges April 14.

This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, and the Texas Department of Public Safety's Rangers Division.

"No one is above the law. Those entrusted with protecting the public safety have a specific duty to guard against corruption. When they become crooked themselves, the interests of the people demand full accounting for their illegal activities," said Madison.

"The sentencing of the former Hidalgo County sheriff is the culmination of a long-term investigation into corruption and the violation of public trust," said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala, HSI San Antonio. "While local community members mourn this violation, they're now able to put this chapter behind them."

Jose A. Padilla, of Weslaco, a former deputy commander with the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office, who served under the leadership of Trevino, pleaded guilty to receiving a bribe, in a separate, but related case. Nine others, including drug trafficker Tomas Reyes Gonzalez, aka "El Gallo," were convicted in relation to the underlying narcotics/money laundering conspiracy. They will all be sentenced Sept. 18 by U.S District Judge Randy Crane.

According to court documents, this investigation revealed that from 2007 to 2013, Reyes Gonzalez headed a drug trafficking organization responsible for distributing thousands of kilograms of marijuana and hundreds of kilograms of cocaine. The narcotics were transported from Texas's Rio Grande Valley to Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. Reyes Gonzalez used the resulting drug proceeds to purchase properties.

Trevino admitted he received cash contributions for his election campaign through Padilla from Reyes Gonzalez, acknowledging he accepted the money knowing it was from illegal activities. At the time of his guilty plea, Padilla also admitted he received cash from Reyes Gonzalez in exchange for providing information to him related to ongoing law enforcement activities.

Trevino admitted he accepted the monies directly and through others as donations to assist with his 2012 election campaign. Some of the monies received were subsequently deposited into bank accounts Trevino controlled and were comingled with other funds. During and after the transactions, Trevino and others acted to disguise and conceal the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the currency by filing false Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Reports and producing other documents.

Trevino's former chief of staff and campaign treasurer, Maria Patricia Medina, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, admitting she assisted Trevino in concealing the donations by falsifying election records. She will be sentenced July 23 by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Sturgis and Anibal Alaniz, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.

Updated: 09/23/2014