MISSION — Two Mission narcotics investigators have been arrested alongside other local law enforcement officers in a federal corruption probe focusing on drug loads stolen from the criminals they had been tasked with taking down, law enforcement officials told The Monitor.
Federal agents Wednesday arrested Jonathan Treviño, son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, and Alexis Espinoza, son of Hidalgo police Chief Rudy Espinoza, three area law enforcement officials confirmed.
Federal agents searched the Mission Police Department, where they searched and seized narcotics investigators' “documents and other items” late Wednesday evening, Mission police Chief Martin Garza said. Two unmarked white pickup trucks with tinted windows were seen leaving the police department as local television stations arrived after 9 p.m.
“The actions of these two officers should not detract from the actions of the 146 officers that devote their lives and careers to the department,” Garza said.
Garza, who did not identify the investigators or confirm their arrests, said they have been suspended pending the outcome of the federal investigation. The chief declined to disclose any details about the federal case.
Agents have obtained at least seven arrest warrants in the case, with at least four law enforcement officers believed to be in federal custody Wednesday night, a law enforcement officer familiar with the case said.
At least two others targeted in the federal probe are believed to be Hidalgo County sheriff's deputies assigned to the narcotics division, two law enforcement officials said.
“They’re buddies,” one law enforcement official said of the Mission officers. Jonathan “has gone unsupervised since the get-go.”
Details of the investigation, headed by the FBI, remain unclear. No federal court filings detailing search or arrest warrants, nor any open criminal case files, had been filed late Wednesday night in U.S. District Court in McAllen.
Spokespersons for the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment Wednesday night.
“I can't confirm or deny anything,” FBI spokesman Erik Vasys said.
Several attempts to reach Sheriff Treviño and Espinoza, formerly a sheriff’s captain before becoming Hidalgo’s top cop in October, were unsuccessful Wednesday night.
The federal probe involves a local task force between Hidalgo County and Mission police known as the Panama Unit, two law enforcement officials said.
“It’s just going to get real, real nasty, real, real quick,” an area law enforcement investigator said of fallout in Mission police and the Sheriff’s Office.
Jonathan Treviño works as a narcotics investigator paid by Mission police assigned to the Panama Unit. Alexis Espinoza also works alongside the sheriff’s son at Mission police as a task force officer assigned to ICE.
Widespread allegations of wrongdoing involving Jonathan Treviño have circulated among local police departments for years, but they have failed to see light — until Wednesday.
“With all the problems he’s had, they should have kicked Jonathan out years ago,” the official said.
Federal agents have been investigating the local task force since at least July, focusing on reports of drug loads stolen from traffickers only to be resold on the black market.
Whether the probe into the younger Treviño will have political ramifications for his father remains to be seen.
Re-elected last month, Sheriff Treviño has maintained close relationships with the federal agencies locally and nationally, where he serves as vice chairman of the Southwest Border Task Force, a 20-member advisory panel launched by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2009.
Jonathan Treviño has worked at Mission police since April 2006, earning a salary of $41,204, according to city salary records released to The Monitor in March 2012. No record for Espinoza exists on that document.
“Everybody knew that kid was dirty,” the investigator said of Jonathan Treviño. “It was just a matter of making a case.
“It’s been a long, long time coming.”
Monitor staff writers Ildefonso Ortiz and Dave Hendricks contributed to this report.
Jared Taylor is a metro editor at The Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4439.