Former Police Officers Sent to Prison
McALLEN, Texas – Two former San Juan police officers have been ordered to federal prison for lying to federal agents, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Following two jury trials in December 2017 and May 2018, Salvador Hernandez, 30, of Mission, and Richard Leon Castillo, 27, of Pharr, were convicted of making materially false statements to agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who were conducting an investigation into missing bundles of cocaine.
Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez ordered Hernandez to serve 24 months in prison, while Castillo received a 16-month sentence. Both will also serve three years of supervised release following their prison terms. In imposing the sentences, the court noted she had no doubt the defendants knowingly and intentionally lied and tried to mislead DEA agents while they were conducting the criminal investigation. As former officers, Judge Alvarez also stated that Castillo and Hernandez swore an oath to uphold and enforce the law and that their criminal conduct tainted the entire community by eroding the community’s trust in law enforcement. Judge Alvarez upwardly departed from the sentencing guidelines because of the serious nature of their conduct, their positions of trust within the community, the need to promote respect for the law and the need to prevent future criminal conduct.
During both trials, the juries heard that on Aug. 27, 2016, authorities seized a load of cocaine from an abandoned vehicle in a San Juan orchard. The investigation revealed 40 bundles of cocaine were intentionally left in the vehicle. However, officers with the San Juan Police Department logged only 37 bundles into evidence.
During the course of the investigation into the missing cocaine, agents discovered the drugs had been stored in a vehicle belonging to Hernandez at the scene. DEA agents interviewed Hernandez, at which time he claimed he never opened the hatch once the drugs were placed in his unit. He added that while assisting in the search for a suspect, he helped search a shed with fellow officer Castillo and Border Patrol (BP) agents.
Authorities also interviewed Castillo, at which time he claimed never to have seen the narcotics prior to their arrival at the police department and that he did not know who transported the cocaine.
DEA then obtained body camera footage from Castillo that showed both officers had lied to DEA agents. In the video, Hernandez and Castillo finished searching a shed and then Hernandez allowed Castillo to touch the cocaine bundles. The footage also demonstrated the two men were alone when they discussed the fact that the bundles had not yet been counted. In the video, Hernandez told Castillo to pick up a bundle. When Castillo reached for one, Hernandez said, “that one’s mine.”
Further evidence presented to the jury revealed that when agents asked Castillo whether he was involved in stealing three kilograms of cocaine, he looked down and refused to answer the question. At the time of Hernandez’s arrest on drug charges, he questioned being taken into custody, noting there were “bigger fish involved.”
Previously released on bond, both were permitted to remain on bond and surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined at a later date.
The DEA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen Rees and Bobby Lopez prosecuted the case.