Jury selection on tap for ex-police chief in drug case

Docs: Lawman used records to aid drug trafficking organization

Jury selection for a former La Joya police chief is set to begin Tuesday in a federal drug conspiracy case.

Fresh from a three-day stay at the La Villa detention center, Geovani Hernandez, 44, will be back in federal court Tuesday for the beginning of jury selection in a federal conspiracy case in which prosecutors allege Hernandez helped a drug trafficking organization move cocaine.

Hernandez, a native of Weslaco, was at the detention center after U.S. District Judge Randy Crane determined he had violated the terms of his bond when he posted information about his case to social media.

During a hearing last week, government prosecutors presented to the court three sealed pieces of evidence showing Hernandez had made the aforementioned posts regarding his current drug conspiracy case.

Crane ordered Hernandez’s bond revoked, and sent him to be held at the La Villa detention facility until Friday, when he was placed back on bond and his ankle monitor reattached.

The former lawman faces two counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in connection with the federal investigation.

Prior to his arrest in the federal case, Hernandez served as the chief for La Joya police between February 2014 and January 2015 before resigning to “pursue possible business opportunities.” He was most recently employed with Progreso police in what they said was a “provisionary sergeant” capacity with the department.

Shortly after that information was released, and during an extraordinarily brief news conference, Progreso police officials announced that Hernandez had been terminated on the same day he stood before a magistrate to hear the charges against him. Hernandez was being investigated during his time at the department.

The complaint filed against Hernandez details communication and meetings with confidential informants working with the government on at least six different occasions, beginning in May 2017, through July 15, 2017.

The investigation into Hernandez began almost three years ago, when special agents with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in McAllen received word in August 2016 that Hernandez was helping an unidentified drug trafficking organization move drugs, and that he was doing so claiming he was a member of that trafficking organization, the complaint stated.

>> READ THE COMPLAINT

Days later, Hernandez met with the informant, whom he handed over a document that contained detailed information regarding a vehicle’s license plate.

In late June, Hernandez met again with the informant, who this time handed Hernandez a note with a person’s name and date of birth, and asked him to run a background check to determine if the person was an informant.

He was paid approximately $2,000 to do this, the complaint shows.

In another instance in early July 2017, the informant met with Hernandez again and said they needed to drive a vehicle for the narco organization from Progreso to Pharr. The informant told Hernandez that they would drive to a warehouse in Progreso where they would load the trafficking organization’s “items” and transport them to Pharr.

During this conversation, the informant told Hernandez he would receive half of the $10,000 they were supposed to receive for the job.

“Hernandez told the CI not to tell him what the vehicle would be transporting, not to discuss any details on their current cell phones and to buy new cell phones,” court records show.

Weeks later the two met once again, when sham cocaine, along with about 1 kilo of real cocaine were loaded into a vehicle.

“On July 15, 2017, based on phone calls, meetings and payments to Hernandez, HSI agents in anticipation of the operation, loaded 10 bricks of a white powdery substance weighing approximately 10 kilograms into an undercover vehicle,” the complaint stated. “Only one brick weighing approximately 1.1 kilos contained cocaine hydrochloride — subsequently (the CI) took possession of the vehicle.”

The informant told Hernandez during that meeting that the organization needed his help to make sure the vehicle got through Progreso without being stopped. Hernandez allegedly agreed, and told the informant to get into Hernandez’s personal vehicle, the complaint stated.

“While in possession of the undercover vehicle, the (confidential defendant) called CI. CI put the cell phone on “speaker” mode to allow Hernandez to hear the conversation,” the complaint stated. “During the call the (confidential defendant) told CI that she was on her way to FM 1015 in Weslaco, Texas. In a later call, the (confidential defendant) told CI (phone on speaker mode) that the delay was due to having trouble loading the 10 eggs in the basket.”

Hernandez then told the informant to let the (confidential defendant) know that they would be patrolling the streets. Hernandez was paid $5,000 later that day for his services.

Based on the complaint, Hernandez was paid approximately $8,000 between May and July 2017.

The investigation into Hernandez, dubbed Operation Blue Shame, was a collaborative effort between several law enforcement agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and IRS Criminal Investigations, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

His trial is set to begin March 4.