Former Sheriff Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

A former South Texas sheriff who had pleaded guilty to money laundering was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday in what the judge called a sad day for the county.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez departed from sentencing guidelines that topped out at less than four years to impose a stiffer sentence on former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino.

Alvarez said many questions remained about how much money Trevino really took from a known drug trafficker. She said Trevino admitted to accepting $20,000 to $25,000 -- double the amounts in question that were recorded in his re-election campaign account.

"You knew that this person was a drug trafficker," Alvarez said. "You are contributing to the problem that we have in this county." She said cases like Trevino's diminish the public's trust.

Standing before the judge in a blue suit and red tie, Trevino made no excuses.

"I'm sorry. It happened. I did it," he said.

Trevino apologized to his wife and children, "because our last name will always be synonymous with what happens here today."

Trevino's four-decade career in law enforcement began unraveling when on Dec. 13, 2012, federal prosecutors announced the arrests of one of Trevino's sons -- a local police officer -- and two of Trevino's deputies. They were members of a joint task force targeting the street-level drug trade. Within months they pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal drug loads and resell them to another trafficker.

Trevino has maintained that he had no knowledge of the rogue unit's activities, including the role of his son, who was living in his home at the time.

He pleaded guilty April 14, about two weeks after resigning as sheriff.

Trevino, who began serving as sheriff in 2005, started his career as a local police officer in the 1970s. He spent 14 years as an officer in the Austin Police department before returning to South Texas to work as an investigator in the district attorney's office.

South Texas sheriffs have gotten into trouble before.

Former Starr County Sheriff Rey Guerra was sentenced to federal prison in 2009 for his role in a drug-smuggling conspiracy. Former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu was sentenced to federal prison in 2005 for running a criminal enterprise. And former Hidalgo County Sheriff Brig Marmolejo was sentenced to prison for taking bribes in 1994.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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