Laredo Deputy Constable Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribe
|Sept. 28, 2011|
LAREDO, Texas - A Webb County Constable Precinct One deputy has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to use his official capacity to protect loads of cocaine, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Eduardo Garcia, aka Eddie Garcia, pleaded guilty late this morning to count one of the indictment charging him with a violation of the Hobbs Act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker accepted Garcia’s guilty plea and is expected to file a report and recommendation with Senior U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen recommending the plea be accepted and the defendant convicted of the federal felony offense.
At today’s hearing, Garcia admitted to having accepted bribes in the amount of $500 on two separate occasions in October and November 2008 to use his official capacity as a certified peace officer to provide a protective escort for a vehicle he believed to be carrying at least one kilogram of cocaine.
The United States informed the court the investigation conducted by special agents of the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) could in fact prove that in 1989, Garcia began his career as a peace officer and was certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in 1993, thus sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws of Texas and of the United States. In 2006 through 2011, Garcia worked as a deputy constable assigned to the mental health unit and operating a prison transport van, among other duties.
In September 2008, in an unrelated investigation, DEA agents sought to purchase cocaine from a suspected supplier through the use of a confidential source (CS). During an undercover operation in furtherance of this unrelated investigation, the CS received a call from Garcia. Garcia told the CS that he had seen the CS driving in the area and warned him that there were several “uglies” - or undercover federal law enforcement vehicles - in the area and identified one vehicle in particular. That vehicle was in fact a law enforcement vehicle engaged in support of the undercover operation.
At the conclusion of the operation, the CS told DEA and FBI agents that in 2007 and 2008 Garcia had provided escort for cocaine loads run by the CS from South Laredo to North Laredo. As part of the escort service, Garcia would identify potential legitimate law enforcement vehicles in the area. This information prompted the investigation of Garcia.
On Sept. 19, 2008, the CS contacted Garcia. During the recorded conversation, the CS discussed problems he was having with his cocaine supplier but also asked about Garcia’s work schedule. Garcia was unaware that the CS was working with federal agents. Over the course of the following three weeks the CS and Garcia has several more conversations which ultimately lead to Garcia agreeing to escort a vehicle he believed would be carrying a kilogram of cocaine in exchange for payment on Oct. 20, 2008. The following day, Oct. 21, the CS received a telephone call from Garcia confirming that he would be available on Oct. 22, to conduct the escort.
On Oct. 22, 2008, at the predetermined time, Garcia driving a white law enforcement van equipped with front grill emergency lights met with and followed the “load vehicle,” driven by the CS from a gas station located on Loop 20 in south Laredo to the parking lot of a hospital just off of Loop 20 North carrying a “sham” kilogram of cocaine. At the conclusion of the escort, the CS paid the defendant $500 in cash. Garcia was wearing his law enforcement badge on his belt. A firearm was not visible.
On Nov. 18, 2008, the CS again contacted Garcia about escorting “one brick,” or one kilogram of cocaine. Garcia again agreed. That day, Garcia, driving his personal vehicle, followed behind the “load” vehicle which he believed to be carrying approximately one kilogram of cocaine from a gas station near the intersection of Loop 20 and Highway 359 in Laredo, Texas. During the escort, Garcia called the CS to warn him about a suspicious vehicle, a reference to a law enforcement vehicle, in the area and advised him to exit Loop 20. The CS continued to drive the pre-planned route along Loop 20 north to the parking lot of a hospital. Garcia followed in his vehicle. At the conclusion of the escort, Garcia met the CS in the hospital parking lot and received another $500 in cash for his service.
On each occasion, the “load” vehicle was in fact carrying a sham kilogram of what appeared to be cocaine and was under surveillance of investigating agents.
Garcia faces a maximum punishment of 20 years incarceration without parole and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is expected to be set for late fall of this year. Garcia has been permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.
Assistant United States Attorneys Roberto F. Ramirez and Elizabeth R. Rabe are prosecuting the case.