Ex-DEA task force officer pleads guilty to lying to feds

Man also worked for McAllen police; sentencing hearing in April

McALLEN — A former DEA task force officer agreed to plead true to providing false statements in connection with a federal conspiracy case, court documents show.

During a re-arraignment hearing Thursday, Ricardo Ruiz Jr. agreed to plead guilty to one count of giving false statements to federal agents. In exchange, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining four counts against him, including two counts of interference with commerce by threat or violence, one count of impersonating an officer, and the remaining count of making false statements to federal agents, the plea agreement states.

The former McAllen cop and three others originally faced conspiracy charges in connection with an incident in May 2017, when Ruiz and the others allegedly orchestrated the seizure of a 2013 Cadillac ATS from an unnamed San Juan resident, according to a federal indictment.

Juan Alberto Gonzalez-Valdez, Jesus Fabian Muñoz and Ruben Torres-Garcia were also named in the indictment, court records show.

“(The defendants) did knowingly and intentionally combine, conspire and agree with each other, and with other persons known and unknown to the grand jury, to knowingly and unlawfully obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by means of extortion obtained, under color of official right, a 2013 Cadillac ATS from S.R., with such person’s consent,” the indictment read.

The indictment also alleges that Muñoz spoke with Gonzalez-Valdez, a truck driver for a wrecker service called Hnos Rodriguez Guros Inc., back in October 2016. He told Gonzalez-Valdez that he knew a police officer who worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration who could help Gonzalez-Valdez doing his job, according to the court record.

Six months later, on April 27, 2017, Torres-Garcia asked Gonzalez-Valdez to get a 2013 Cadillac ATS, which he claimed was his, from a man whose name was not revealed but identified as “S.R.” in the indictment.

“On or about the same date, Gonzalez contacted Muñoz and asked to obtain the assistance of Muñoz’s law enforcement friend in connection with the acquisition of the vehicle for Torres,” the indictment read.

Muñoz told Gonzalez-Valdez it would cost him $1,100 for Ruiz’s services. Gonzalez-Valdez in turn told Torres it would cost him $1,800 since he needed help from Ruiz.

Several days later, on May 1, 2017, the indictment alleges Torres gave Gonzalez-Valdez the aforementioned $1,800 fee to get S.R.’s Cadillac.

“On or about May 5, 2017, Gonzalez met with Muñoz and his law enforcement friend, (Ruiz), regarding the acquisition of the 2013 Cadillac ATS from S.R. On that date, Muñoz and Ruiz, accompanied Gonzalez to S.R.’s residence located in San Juan, Texas, in order to obtain the vehicle,” the court document states.

The indictment alleges that Ruiz, who was wearing clothing with the word “police” on the front, including a holstered gun and badge, told S.R. that he was a police officer and that Gonzalez-Valdez, the truck driver, needed to take his Cadillac.

“…Ruiz advised S.R., the owner of the 2013 Cadillac ATS, that Ruiz was with the police, specifically the DEA, and that the vehicle was going to be towed because of a law enforcement investigation,” the court record shows. “…S.R. voluntarily consented to the vehicle being removed from his residence by Gonzalez due to Ruiz being a law enforcement official and Ruiz advising him that the vehicle was the subject of law enforcement investigation.”

Ruiz faced an additional charge related to his encounter with the owner of the Cadillac, specifically one count of impersonating an officer. This stems from Ruiz telling S.R. he was with the DEA despite no longer being a task force officer with the agency, records show.

According to records, Ruiz worked as a task force officer with the DEA for about three years, from April 19, 2014 to April 11, 2017, and with the McAllen Police Department from May 2005 to July 27, 2017.

The two counts of making “a materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement and representation” are connected to the statements he made to federal agents on July 26, 2017. During that interview, Ruiz told federal agents he had not participated in the aforementioned seizure of the Cadillac and that he had not identified himself as an agent with the DEA, court records show.

The government claims those statements were lies.

Subsequent to the vehicle’s seizure, “Gonzalez met with Ruiz and Muñoz and paid Ruiz and Muñoz $1,100 for their assistance,” according to the court record.

The following day, Torres demanded Gonzalez-Valdez and Ruiz return the $1,100 because San Juan police officers had taken possession of the Cadillac from Gonzalez and returned it to S.R., the complaint states.

Torres, Gonzalez-Valdez and Muñoz all appeared in court Friday for their respective court hearings, court notes show.

Arrested in June 2018, Torres appeared for a pre-trial hearing Friday, but the hearing was ultimately rescheduled, court notes show.

Gonzalez-Valdez, who was arrested in March 2018 in connection with this conspiracy, pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charges May 2, 2018, and remains free on bond, court records show.

He appeared in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing, but that hearing was rescheduled to a later date not yet published, according to court notes.

Muñoz, who was arrested in May 2018 as well, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of interference with commerce by threat or violence, court records show. He will remain on bond, pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be set, court notes show.

Ruiz, who remains free on a $50,000 bond, is due back in court April 11, where he is scheduled to be sentenced, court notes show.