Trevino said the FBI came to his office around 3 p.m. Wednesday to tell him two of his deputies were targets of an investigation and that his son was, as well. He said the Panama Unit was formed more than three years ago to help Mission clean up its street-level drug crime, and that he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case because it wasn't his investigation.
Federal prosecutors say the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement department that conducts internal reviews received a tip in August about Espinoza and another task force member stealing drugs. Local police are often assigned to multi-agency task forces focusing on drug interdiction. Federal investigators set up a sting.
According to prosecutors, a confidential source working for the government told Duran in September that the drug trafficking organization he was working for needed corrupt law enforcement officers to escort drug loads. On Oct. 19, Duran and another individual escorted a load of 20 kilograms of cocaine north from McAllen to the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias about an hour away. Duran was allegedly paid $4,000, they said.
The officers earned thousands of dollars more for allegedly escorting four more cocaine shipments in November that were part of the sting operation, prosecutors contend.
The complaint said all four “utilized their positions as law enforcement personnel to escort and protect loads of narcotics.” Nothing in the charging documents accuses them of stealing drugs, which was the original tip.
Mission Police Chief Martin Garza said Thursday that Jonathan Trevino was the only officer from his department assigned to the Panama Unit and that Espinoza was assigned to an ICE task force that had its own supervisor.
Garza said both officers were fired Thursday. The FBI visited his office late Wednesday afternoon to advise him of their investigation and to collect documents related to it. Garza said he cooperated fully and his department would conduct its own investigation.
If the allegations against his officers are proven, Garza said cases they worked on would have to be reviewed with the district attorney. “There's going to be a domino effect,” he said.