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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 30, 2019

Law Enforcement Officers Indicted for Extortion and Fraud

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Two former deputies with the Cameron County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right and wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.

Benito De La Cruz Jr., 45, of San Benito, and Armando Gonzalez Jr., 31, of Weslaco, are still in law enforcement but not currently affiliated with Precinct 5.

A federal grand jury returned the 12-count indictment under seal May 28. They were taken into custody today and are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.  

The indictment alleges the De La Cruz and Gonzalez unlawfully ran license plate and criminal history checks. They allegedly performed or asked others to perform these law enforcement database checks in return for money or gifts.

De La Cruz is also charged with five counts of making false statements to federal officers. The indictment alleges he was not truthful when the FBI special agent interviewed him about the scheme. De La Cruz allegedly made these false statements in five separate instances during his interview. 

If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in federal prison for extortion or wire fraud and a maximum five years for the conspiracy. De La Cruz also faces a potential sentence of five years for each count of making false statements, upon conviction. The charges also carry a potential $250,000 maximum fine.

The FBI, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Texas Rangers conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. The Harlingen Police Department also assisted with the arrests. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jody Young, Oscar Ponce and Robert Johnson are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Component(s): 
Updated May 30, 2019