Thursday, May 7, 2009


Former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra will remain free on bond until his sentencing on July 29 after his plea of guilty to one federal drug smuggling conspiracy charge in federal court in McAllen.

In his guilty plea on Friday morning, May 1, Guerra admitted to using his office as sheriff as early as January 2007 to assist a drug smuggling organization, based in Miguel Aleman, led by Jose Carlos Hinojosa. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Guerra faces a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and could possibly receive a penalty of life imprisonment. He also faces a $4 million fine and a five-year term of supervised release. He will be permitted to remain free on bond for the time being, but was informed that he will be taken into custody on July 29.

The Rio Grande Herald attempted on Monday morning to contact Guerra’s attorney, Philip Hilder of Houston, but was unable to reach him.

In an article on Saturday, May 2, The McAllen Monitor quoted Hilder as saying, “He (Guerra) feels that he’s let down his family, friends and constituents. He’s deeply remorseful for that.”

On Friday, County Judge Eloy Vera told The Herald, “I am disappointed and I feel sorry for his family. However, nobody is above the law and anyone who breaks the law has to face the consequences. I wish his family the best during these difficult times.”

Guerra pleaded guilty at a hearing Friday morning before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen.

Guerra was one of 27 persons charged with various drug trafficking and/or money laundering offenses alleged in a superseding indictment returned in October 2008. A total of 20 defendants, including Guerra, have entered pleas of guilty to one or more counts in the indictment.

Following his arrest by FBI agents on Oct. 14, the Commissioners Court voted at an emergency meeting on Oct. 20 to accept Guerra’s resignation. Guerra wound up resigning twice because he was on the November 2008 ballot without opposition.

Following his arrest, the government insisted that Guerra was a flight risk and danger to the community and requested that he be held without bond. He was incarcerated without bond until mid-December.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston, “Guerra admitted that since at least January of 2007 he utilized information learned as a result of his position as sheriff to enable Jose Carlos Hinojosa and his drug trafficking associates to avoid investigation and possible arrest and to hasten their release if they were arrested…On at least one occasion, Guerra knowingly gave a false document to investigators to deflect suspicion from one of Hinojosa’s associates.”

The Houston office added, “…Through his actions, Guerra helped Hinojosa and his associates to continue to engage in drug trafficking activities in Starr County. In return for his information and protection, Guerra was compensated through ‘gifts’ from Hinojosa, typically $2000 to $3000 at a time.”

The Monitor article on Saturday stated, “But federal prosecutors said Friday that he (Guerra) did not actually play a role in bringing any illegal drugs into the United States and termed him ‘a minor participant’ in the illegal (Gulf Cartel) organization.”

The article stated that Guerra first met Hinojosa when the latter “was legitimately working with law enforcement in Mexico.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Toni Trevino was quoted by The Monitor as saying, “Hinojosa would assist Guerra with the return of various suspects who had escaped from the United States.”

The prosecutor declared, however, that by January 2007, Guerra was fully knowledgeable that Hinojosa had left his work in legitimate law enforcement to become a full-fledged narcotics trafficker.

Guerra was appointed Interim Sheriff in March 1998. He was elected in November 1998 to fill the remaining two years of the unexpired term. He was elected to full four-year terms in 2000 and 2004.

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