Former McAllen ISD teacher’s cocaine case going to trial

McALLEN — A former McAllen ISD Spanish teacher accused of aiding a Reynosa-based cartel pleaded not guilty to federal drug charges this week.

Jorge Ignacio Cavazos, who was formally suspended with pay by McAllen ISD officials in February, will prepare for trial against the government after his not guilty pleas were entered May 1, court records show.

In a letter dated Feb. 1 from the school district’s human resources director, the Abraham Lincoln Middle School teacher was informed that he would be suspended with pay “pending the outcome of an administrative investigation.”

“You are directed not to report to work or any other district property until further notice,” the letter states.

But Mark May, spokesman for McAllen ISD, said that Cavazos resigned from his position with the school district Feb. 26.

In an email response from May on behalf of McAllen ISD, May said Cavazos resigned via a letter of resignation sent from his attorney.

Cavazos, who has been licensed as an educator in Texas for nearly 20 years and currently remains free on bond, faces federal drug conspiracy, possession and distribution of a controlled substance charges related to an investigation into a group of people in a cocaine smuggling conspiracy.

Homeland Security Investigations agents, who work as the investigations arm for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, arrested the teacher in late January after he admitted to his role in a drug trafficking organization which worked to smuggle illicit drugs into the country, according to the complaint filed against him.

Cavazos told HSI agents that since 2016, he “had been assisting” a drug cartel based in Reynosa by unloading carloads of narcotics, which were imported from Mexico into the U.S., the complaint states.

The 50-year-old McAllen resident and middle school teacher, told federal agents he had been facilitating the movement of drugs for the cartel on a weekly basis since 2016.

Cavazos, a U.S. citizen, wasn’t on the agents’ radar until about six months ago, when HSI agents received a tip about a vehicle loaded with drugs from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials out of the Pharr port of entry.

On July 20, 2017, a Mexican national attempted to enter the U.S. with about 11 kilos of cocaine hidden in an altered compartment inside a black Nissan Altima, court record shows.

Four months later, in November 2017, HSI agents received additional information from an informant who was cooperating with them about the seizure of the 11 kilos in July 2017.

“The (informant) stated that the aforementioned vehicle was utilized on several occasions to transport narcotics into the U.S. at the direction of a drug trafficking organization operating in Reynosa, Tamaulipas (Mexico),” the complaint states. “The (drug trafficking organization) requested that after the vehicle successfully entered the U.S., it needed to be turned over (to) a male subject in the U.S.”

The informant identified Cavazos as the recipient of the drugs from the cartel and recalled one instance on July 19, 2017, when Cavazos traveled to a McAllen Walmart to pick up the black Nissan Altima, which the informant claimed was loaded with drugs, the criminal complaint states.

Cavazos is expected back before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa June 4 for jury selection in his trial, court notes show.