San Juan cops facing federal charges in connection with drug conspiracy

McALLEN — San Juan police currently have two officers facing federal charges.

The most recent arrest came last week when federal authorities detained officer Salvador Hernandez and charged him with possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine, according to court records.

Chief Juan Gonzalez in a prepared statement announced Hernandez was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation into him.

“The San Juan Police Department was recently made aware of the arrest of Police Officer Salvador Hernandez, by federal law enforcement authorities,” Gonzalez said. “Officer Hernandez will be placed un suspension without pay due to his arrest. While the Department has no information or comment to make with respect to the federal criminal investigation and arrest, Officer Hernandez’s employment status with the City of San Juan Police Department will be handled and processed in accordance with the requirements of civil service law as set forth in Chapter 143, Texas Local Gov’t Code and the Local Rules adopted by the San Juan Civil Service Commission.”

The charges stem from an August 2016 traffic accident involving a vehicle that had been abandoned in an orchard, according to the criminal complaint.

Hernandez responded to the crash at about 7 a.m. Aug. 27, 2016, near Moore and Stewart Roads, along with several U.S. Border Patrol agents, the complaint states.

“A search of the vehicle located two duffel bags containing bundles wrapped in black and gray tape,” the complaint states.

A K-9 officer was used that determined possible narcotics located within the discovered bundles, the complaint reads.

“Shortly thereafter the two duffel bags containing the tape-wrapped bundles were placed in Hernandez’s marked patrol unit,” the records show. “Approximately, an hour and a half later, Hernandez delivered the two duffel bags to the San Juan Police department.”

When the duffel bags were counted officers reported 37 bundles, the complaint reads.

The next morning agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration visited the police station to retrieve the 37 bundles but a thorough investigation revealed that the duffel bags retrieved from the vehicle and moved by Hernandez, contained 40 bundles of cocaine at the time Hernandez took possession of the bags, the complaint.

Federal agents interviewed Hernandez where he admitted to retrieving the bags and taking them to the station, but that he was not aware of anyone counting the bundles, the criminal complaint states.

Hernandez, who made his initial appearance in federal court last Friday, was released from custody Wednesday after a detention hearing was held, according to a U.S. Marshals official.

A call placed to Hernandez’s attorney Alejandro Guerra went unreturned as of press time.

The arrest comes weeks after his fellow officer, Richard Leon Castillo, was charged with lying to federal agents in connection with Hernandez’s case.

Last month Castillo, a more than three-year vet of the departments, was arrested and charged with lying to federal agents in connection with Hernandez’s drug conspiracy case.

Castillo paid a $30,000 bond and was released from federal custody on April 19, court records show.

He remains on release pending a new court date.

The duo are the most recent officers from the San Juan police department to come under criminal investigation.

In late 2015, the department suspended and terminated officer Juan Galindo after footage was leaked to local TV station KGBT of Galindo appearing to knee a suspect in the groin after he had been restrained.

Ultimately, last summer a third-party examiner ruled that Galindo acted with “reasonable conformity,” during the incident and was reinstated with the department.