Former deputy sheriff convicted of drug trafficking
McALLEN, Texas – A former deputy with the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Baldemar Cardenas, 36, Mission, admitted that in January 2020, he conspired with members of a drug trafficking organization.
Members of the group would receive kilogram quantities of highly-pure cocaine. They would then utilize small portions of the drugs to create sham cocaine with very low purity.
Cardenas would ensure authorities seized the fake bundles. The seizure would allow the co-conspirators to avoid responsibility for stealing the cocaine from their source of supply and allow the distribution of the stolen cocaine for profit.
In order to further the scheme and in exchange for $10,000, Cardenas provided information to law enforcement in order to effectuate the seizure of the sham bundles. Cardenas falsely claimed a confidential source provided the information. Based on the information he gave, law enforcement seized the multi-kilogram sham bundles of cocaine.
Laboratory testing conducted on the bundles revealed a cocaine purity level of only 1.5%.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa accepted the plea and set sentencing for June 14. At that time, he faces a minimum of five and up to 40 years in prison. He was permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The FBI and Homeland Security Investigation conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, and Mission Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Lopez Jr. is prosecuting the case.
The plea is a result of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation Muchos Primos. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States. It uses a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.