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March 21, 2012

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Former Sheriff’s Investigator Lands Hefty Federal Prison Sentence

McALLEN, Texas - A former Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Criminal Investigator convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana has been sentenced to prison, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Heriberto Diaz, 41, of San Juan, Texas, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Randy Crane to serve 132 months in federal prison, which will be followed by a four-year-term of supervised release.

Diaz was convicted Oct. 20, 2011, following a three-day trial in McAllen and five hours of jury deliberations.

During trial, the jury heard testimony that Diaz met with his partner, Omar Salazar - also a Hidalgo County Sheriff’s investigator, at a Stripes convenience store in Mission, Texas. At that time, Diaz informed Salazar that he had received a tip that marijuana was being stored at a nearby residence and they both subsequently traveled to the residence. After Diaz threatened the resident with arrest if she did not comply, Diaz and Salazar received the consent to search. Salazar discovered approximately 161 kilograms inside the residence.

Salazar testified that he contacted Joel Duncan to assist with the removal of the marijuana from the residence. While Duncan and his son, Jorge Duncan, were removing the marijuana, a Mission police officer observed Jorge Duncan carrying large bundles marijuana out of the residence. The officer took the Duncans into custody. However, at the request of Salazar, both were released after Salazar informed the officer they were confidential informants assisting in a narcotics investigation.

Testimony at trial showed that Diaz lied on numerous official offense reports to disguise his illegal activity.

Salazar and Joel Duncan were also charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana and are currently in custody set for sentencing before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa on May 21, 2012, at 9:30 a.m.

This matter was investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department and was prosecuted by Assistant United states Attorney Robert Wells Jr.