Panama Unit Conspirators Plead Not Guilty to Charges of Cocaine Trafficking

Ildefonso Ortiz
The Monitor
January 20, 2013


(Left to right): Jonathan Treviño, Gerardo Duran, Alexis Espinoza

(Left to right): Jonathan Treviño, Gerardo Duran, Alexis Espinoza

Traces of Reality: A follow-up to a previous article

McALLEN — Three former cops accused of protecting drug loads pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in federal court after the fourth former lawman charged in the case also pleaded not guilty Monday.

Al Alvarez, a defense attorney in the case, said it’s early in the case and the charges would be fought.

Jonathan C. Treviño, Alexis R. Espinoza and Gerardo Duran appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos for their arraignment hearings Thursday. Fabian Rodriguez, the fourth law enforcement officer facing federal charges in the case, was arraigned Monday because of a scheduling conflict, records show.

Each man faces one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine. Espinoza and Duran face four counts each of aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and Treviño and Rodriguez each face one count on that charge.

Upon conviction, each man could face 10 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $10 million.

Duran and Espinoza both declined comment outside federal court Thursday. Later in the day, Espinoza’s attorney told The Monitor that the case is just in the beginning stages and they would fight all the way through.

All defendants remain out on bond.

Jonathan Treviño, the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, and Alexis Espinoza, the son of Hidalgo police Chief Rudy Espinoza, were investigators with Mission police who have since been terminated. Treviño worked in the Panama Unit and Espinoza was assigned to a task force with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Sheriff Treviño declined to comment on his son’s arraignment hearing Thursday afternoon.

Read the full article— Panama Unit members arraigned

Traces of Reality: In the midst of this cocaine-trafficking scandal, the Mission Police Department has slapped together some flaccid rules — including drug-testing, background checks, financial audits, and polygraphs — for new investigators in order to “keep the integrity of these positions.”  While I suspect these coke dealers could have sailed through these measures prior to obtaining employment within each “task force”, I’m a bit surprised anybody in south Texas thinks these task forces possess any integrity at all.  -DB