Former Officer and Co-Defendant Sentenced in Conspiracy to Traffic Cocaine
McALLEN, Texas – A former Rio Grande City Police investigator and another man have been ordered to federal prison following their conviction of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Special Agent in Charge Shane M. Folden of Homeland Security Investigations in San Antonio. Noel Pena, 29, of Rio Grande City was assigned to the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Aare Task Force. Also sentenced today was Hector Salinas-Hinojosa, 21, of Roma.
At the hearing, Chief Judge Ricardo Hinojosa ordered Pena to serve a total of 84 months in federal prison, while Salinas will serve a 60-month term. The sentences will be followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court took into consideration not only their illicit activity but also the fact that each, independent of each other, had cooperated with authorities after their respective arrest.
“The court's sentence appropriately punished the two defendants in this case for their involvement in a major drug trafficking organization that had a negative impact on the Rio Grande Valley and other surrounding communities,” said Folden. “HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to dismantle criminal organizations who blatantly ignore the laws of this nation.”
Both men were arrested in mid-April after they conspired to provide a fake police report to an undercover officer acting as a cocaine trafficker. Per the criminal complaint issued at the time, on April 9, 2015, Salinas and Pena met with the undercover officer and agreed to provide a fake police report to make it appear that 10 kilograms of cocaine has been seized by law enforcement in exchange for $10,000. At the time of the meeting, the undercover officer provided $5,000 as a down payment for the report.
As part of the undercover operation, on April 11, 2015, two kilograms of cocaine were left a stash house location in Garceno. After being “tipped” off the location, Pena proceeded to the residence, “found” the cocaine and then obtained a state search warrant to seize it.
As part of the agreement, the undercover officer had provided two of the eight kilograms to establish an actual seizure. A week later, Salinas provide the report to officer and was paid the remaining $5,000.
At the time of his plea, Pena agreed that after Salinas provided the fake report, Pena met with him in the early evening hours at a cemetery in Rio Grande City. Salinas then paid Pena $1,500 for his services. Salinas had been able to provide the fake report based on the details in the search warrant provided by Pena earlier.
Both have been in custody since the day of their respective arrests where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The charges were the result of an investigation conducted by HSI, Drug Enforcement Administrations, Texas Department of Public Safety and the FBI with assistance from the Texas Rangers. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Ted Imperato are prosecuting the case.