New charges for current and former police officers

McALLEN — One former police officer and one who remains on administrative leave are expected back in federal court Thursday as they face new federal charges.

Last December, jurors found Richard Leon Castillo, 26, guilty of making a false statement to federal agents, but found Salvador Hernandez, 30, not guilty of a drug trafficking charge; additionally, the jury failed to reach a verdict on a separate drug conspiracy charge, records show.

Castillo, who had been with the department for three years, was terminated following his guilty conviction — Hernandez remains on administrative leave, according to San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez.

The charges stem from an August 2016 traffic accident that Hernandez encountered involving a vehicle that had been abandoned in an orchard, according to the criminal complaint.

Hernandez responded to the crash at about 7 a.m. Aug. 27, 2016, near Moore and Stewart Roads, along with several U.S. Border Patrol agents, the complaint states.

A subsequent search of the vehicle by Hernandez turned up two duffel bags which appeared to contain bricks of drugs.

“Shortly thereafter, the two duffel bags containing the tape-wrapped bundles were placed in Hernandez’s marked patrol unit,” the records show. “Approximately an hour and a half later, Hernandez delivered the two duffel bags to the San Juan Police Department.”

When the duffel bags were counted, officers reported 37 bundles, the complaint reads.

The next morning, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration visited the police station to retrieve the 37 bundles, but a thorough investigation revealed that the duffel bags retrieved from the vehicle and moved by Hernandez, contained 40 bundles of cocaine at the time Hernandez took possession of the bags, according to the complaint.

That led to a six-day trial in December for both Castillo and Hernandez.

Jurors deliberated for two and half days before finding Castillo guilty of lying to federal agents, and Hernandez not guilty of a drug trafficking charge.

The jury failed to come to a unanimous decision on the drug conspiracy charge — resulting in a mistrial.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors unsealed a four-count indictment against the pair, with Castillo and Hernandez facing two drug conspiracy charges each — while Hernandez faces two counts of lying to federal agents — the same charge Castillo beat in December, according to the indictment.

Federal agents interviewed Hernandez where he admitted to retrieving the bags and taking them to the station, but that he was not aware of anyone counting the bundles, the criminal complaint states.

The new indictment alleges the pair “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with other persons known and unknown to the grand jurors to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance.”

Hernandez, the indictment alleges, lied to federal agents who interviewed him about the missing bundles of cocaine when DEA agents met with him in November 2016.

Specifically, the indictment alleges Hernandez told DEA agents that Border Patrol agents were on hand at the scene when he and Castillo searched a shed for a drug smuggler, “when in truth and in fact, the statements and representations were false in that Border Patrol Agents did not arrive at location on Aug. 27, 2016.”

Hernandez allegedly also lied when he stated the two duffle bags containing the seized cocaine were placed in his patrol unit, and wasn’t opened until it arrived at the police station, “when in fact … Hernandez did open the back hatch to his unit between the time the two duffle bags, which contained narcotics, were placed in the back of his unit and when he arrived at the San Juan Police Department,” the indictment alleges.

The pair are expected at an arraignment hearing Feb. 8, court records show.

This report was updated to show correct length of the trial and deliberation.