Jury Convicts Former Police Officer
McALLEN, Texas – A federal jury sitting in McAllen has returned a guilty verdict against a former San Juan police officer for lying to federal agents, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The jury deliberated for approximately two days before convicting Salvador Hernandez, 30, of McAllen, following a five-day trial.
The jury 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 had logged only 37 bundles into evidence.
During the course of the investigation into the missing cocaine, law enforcement discovered the drugs had been stored in a vehicle belonging to Hernandez at the scene. Authorities interviewed him, 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 Richard Leon Castillo, 26, of Donna and Border Patrol agents. The jury saw video evidence and heard testimony that contradicted both statements.
Authorities 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 to the police department. Video evidence also confirmed that statement to be false.
Further, the jury saw video evidence of Hernandez allowing Castillo to touch the cocaine bundles. The footage also showed the two men discussing the fact that the bundles had not yet been counted. Specifically, as Castillo reached for one bundle, Hernandez is heard saying, “That one’s mine.”
The investigation revealed Castillo and Hernandez both failed to upload the video to police department records and failed to include any mention of touching the drugs within any department records.
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, he questioned being taken into custody, noting there were “bigger fish involved.”
At trial, the defense attempted to attack the credibility of witnesses, the validity of lab reports confirming the presence of cocaine and the suggestion that Hernandez and Castillo’s false statements were mistakes.
In December 2017, a federal jury convicted Castillo, of lying to federal agents.
Previously released on bond, both were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing, set for July 31, 2018. At that time, they face up to five years in prison.
Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen Rees and Bobby Lopez are prosecuting the case.