EDINBURG, April 14 - Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe 'Lupe' Treviño has entered a guilty plea to a "criminal information" charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson has announced.
Treviño, aged 64 and a resident of McAllen, resigned as sheriff two weeks ago.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, a federal investigation found that in 2011 and 2012 Treviño received cash contributions for his election campaign from alleged drug trafficker, Tomas 'El Gallo' Gonzalez. In federal court on Monday, Treviño admitted he accepted the money, knowing it was from illegal activities. He also admitted he accepted the monies directly and through others as donations to assist with his 2012 election campaign. Some of the monies received were subsequently deposited into bank accounts Trevino controlled and were comingled with other funds, the U.S. Attorney's Office said, in a news release.
"During and after the transactions, Treviño and others acted to disguise and conceal the nature, location, source, ownership and control of the currency by filing false Candidate/Officeholder Campaign Finance Reports and producing other documents," the news release stated.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez accepted Treviño's guilty plea and set sentencing for July 17, 2014. At that time, Treviño faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.
Last Friday, Maria Patricia Medina, Treviño’s former chief of staff and campaign treasurer, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, admitting she assisted Treviño in the concealment of the donations by falsifying election records. She faces up to three years in federal prison and a potential fine of $250,000, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office news release.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration and Texas Department of Public Safety, Rangers Division. Assistant United States Attorneys James Sturgis and Anibal Alaniz prosecuted the case.
The new interim sheriff for Hidalgo County has commented on Treviño's guilty plea.
"It is regrettable that former Sheriff Trevino’s legacy will be tainted forever. It is disheartening to know that a man’s entire law enforcement career; everything positive that he accomplished is wiped away with a plea of guilty," said Sheriff J.E. 'Eddie' Guerra.
"In law enforcement more than any other profession, we are held to a higher standard. A standard based on trust. Trust that the people of this County depend upon to keep them safe from evils that lurk outside their doors and to be there to protect them in their most desperate hours. The trust our community has in the Sheriff’s Office has been shaken to its very core."
Story after story of misdealing and criminal acts has the community "weary in their belief" of what the Sheriff's Office stands for, Guerra added.
"I will not make excuses for the former Sheriff, I cannot. I can tell you that your Sheriff’s Office is staffed with hard working, honest men and women that have been battling to regain the dignity they once had," Guerra said. "We (community leaders, the honest hard working men and women of the Sheriff’s and I) will forge ahead with what we started; the long road to regain the public’s trust, to restore faith in our Sheriff’s Office and County and most importantly, the honor and integrity of the men and women of your Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office."