Former Hidalgo County Sheriff's Commander Pleads Guilty
Former Hidalgo County sheriff's commander Jose Padilla has formally admitted to his role in a drug-related scandal that has ravaged the sheriff's department, and which eventually forced the resignation of long-time sheriff Lupe Trevino. Padilla, in McAllen federal court, late Thursday morning pleaded guilty to one count of bribery. The plea stems from Padilla's relationship with convicted Weslaco-based drug trafficker Tomas "El Gallo" Gonzalez. Padilla, initially, had been indicted on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges.
Thursday's plea reportedly was part of a deal with federal prosecutors in return for the dismissal of other charges and the possibility of a lesser punishment. A lengthy federal investigation had found that Padilla solicited and took cash from Gonzalez in return for working to protect his marijuana smuggling operation.
Investigators say Padilla also turned over some of Gonzalez' drug cash to the 2012 re-election campaign of former sheriff Trevino. Padilla's plea comes 3 days after Trevino pleaded guilty to money laundering stemming from his attempt to cover up the illegal campaign contributions. Padilla is scheduled to learn his punishment July 17th, the same day Trevino is to be sentenced.