Lupe Treviño target of criminal probe; former assistant admits to campaign cover-up - The Monitor: Local News

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Lupe Treviño target of criminal probe; former assistant admits to campaign cover-up

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Maria Patricia Medina

FILE PHOTO — Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño walks outside of a home after an eight liner robbery Friday Aug. 24, 2013 in Alton. photo by Gabe Hernandez/

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Posted: Friday, April 11, 2014 5:35 pm

McALLEN — Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño is accused of laundering campaign donations tied to a convicted drug trafficker, according to criminal information and court testimony Friday where his former chief of staff admitted to not reporting the crime.

Maria Patricia Medina pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to criminal information that relates to a money laundering investigation against former sheriff Treviño.

The information is the first official word from federal prosecutors that Treviño is the target of a criminal investigation.

The probe relates to a $5,000 cash donation that Treviño accepted from Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez via former Cmdr. Jose “Joe” Padilla during his re-election campaign for sheriff, according to court testimony.

Treviño has not replied to an email seeking comment. His former cell phone number has been disconnected.

Medina, 40, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony — withholding information on a crime.

Wearing a black suit with black shoes, a soft-spoken Medina went before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, and pleaded guilty to the charge.

Hinojosa explained to Medina the process of going forward with criminal information rather than an indictment.

Rather than prosecutors bring evidence before a grand jury that would decide whether an indictment should be filed — giving Medina a chance to fight the charges at trial — information meant she agreed to the accusations against her, the judge said.

 “Yes I do,” Medina replied.

Between July 26, 2011 and Aug. 3, 2011, Treviño “did unlawfully, knowingly and intentionally conduct and intend to conduct a financial transaction that affected foreign and interstate commerce” that involved drug trafficking, the information states.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Sturgis said during the hearing that Medina had knowledge of the transaction and as Treviño’s campaign treasurer she knew that Treviño had deposited the money from the transactions in banks using false names. She then assisted in the endeavor by falsifying the campaign reports to make it seem that the money had been returned to Gonzalez.

Sturgis told Hinojosa that Medina had accepted a plea agreement with prosecutors, who would recommend a reduced sentence for her acceptance of the charges.

It was unclear whether or not prosecutors will recommend she serves any prison time.

Prior to accepting Medina’s guilty plea, Hinojosa warned her that in addition to a possible three-year sentence and a $250,000 fine followed by a year of supervised release, since she wasn’t a U.S. citizen she could be deported to Mexico.

“I understand,” Medina said as she slightly nodded her head.

Friday afternoon’s court hearing did not appear on Hinojosa’s court docket and a court employee said he had no hearings scheduled.

When a Monitor reporter tried to enter the courtroom ahead of Medina’s appearance, a deputy U.S. Marshal refused to let the reporter inside. The official said the there where no court hearings scheduled and if the reporter didn’t leave, he would be forcibly removed and banned from the courthouse.

But as the reporter was preparing to leave, courthouse security in the lobby notified him that he was allowed to be present for Medina’s public hearing. 

After pleading guilty, Medina went before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos, who set a $30,000 unsecured bond in her case — allowing her to remain free without paying a deposit. Should she fail to appear at any of her future court hearings or she breaks the conditions of her bail, she would have to pay the full amount and possibly face further prosecution.

During the bond hearing, Medina said that she was not employed at the time and was looking for a job with private companies and law firms. Ramos told her that she couldn’t work in any law enforcement agency or work in any company that has dealings with law enforcement.  

While typical court orders keep those on bond from leaving the area, Ramos permitted Medina to visit her daughter in Austin.

Medina’s lawyer, Ricardo Salinas, could not be reached for comment Friday evening. Appearing for him in court was Carlos Ortegon, who declined to comment.

Sentencing for Medina is set for July 3.  

Treviño hired Medina as his administrative assistant in 2005, the year he took office as sheriff, and paid her a $40,000 annual salary. She was given a raise and the title executive assistant in 2008, as well as another raise and the title chief administrator in 2010. 

By the time she resigned last month, Medina was earning $77,250 as the sheriff's chief of staff — a position to which she was appointed in 2012. 

Treviño has not replied to an email seeking comment. His former cell phone number has been disconnected.

Monitor staff writer Dave Hendricks contributed to this report. ,  

Read the court filings in Medina's case.

Read Patricia Medina's personnel file from the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office. 


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