Ex-lawman accused in testimony of handing over badge to informant

McALLEN — Testimony during the second day of trial in the case of a former Rio Grande Valley lawman accused of attempting to work with the cartel revealed allegations that he handed over his state-issued police badge to a man he believed was a cartel associate, but who was in fact the government’s cooperating source.

After more than five hours of testimony on Monday, Hector Obed Saucedo-Rodriguez of Pharr continued on the stand Tuesday with additional testimony.

The man, who claimed to be cooperating with federal agents in order to secure a reduced sentenced for his wife, who was facing drug conspiracy charges in an unrelated federal case in Houston, said he ran several 8-liner businesses for approximately three years before meeting former La Joya police chief Geovani Hernandez.

Hernandez is accused of helping drug cartel associates move cocaine through the county in exchange for money, some of which he was using to fund a campaign bid for county constable.

Saucedo-Rodriguez testified that he worked to record Hernandez as they made plans to help facilitate a drug run, which had been coordinated by federal agents, in July 2017.

The testimony Saucedo-Rodriguez provided included details of two instances in July 2017 when he and Hernandez patrolled the streets of Progreso to “clean” the area of any other police officers — this to give safe passage to what Hernandez believed was a car loaded with cocaine making its way to Pharr.

On those two occasions, Saucedo-Rodriguez said he was Hernandez’s passenger in his personal car on July 15, 2017, and in Hernandez’s patrol unit on July 31, 2017, when a car loaded with drugs that Hernandez believed was associated with the Gulf Cartel was to traverse through Progreso to Pharr.

Jurors were shown a photo of the badge Hernandez gave to Saucedo-Rodriguez, who promptly showed it to federal agents in charge of the investigation, before returning it to Hernandez.

Also shown to jurors was aerial surveillance footage of the July 15, 2017 meeting between the two men, showing the arrival of Saucedo-Rodriguez at Hernandez’s Weslaco residence, and then the subsequent trip to Progreso where Hernandez was tasked with “sweeping” Progreso’s city streets to provide safe passage.

Hernandez understood he would be paid $5,000 for each instance of helping aid the associates get the load car through the city he was sworn to patrol.

The former police chief was arrested in early August 2017 in connection with a drug conspiracy case in which the government alleges he served as a go-between contact for an unidentified drug trafficking organization.

In September of that year, the now 44-year-old Weslaco native pleaded not guilty to two charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and was subsequently granted a $100,000 bond.

Government prosecutors allege that despite Hernandez’s long career in law enforcement, he was working with the source who claimed he was moving drugs for the Gulf Cartel — aiding him in the movement of illicit drugs in exchange for money — and potential allies in Mexico who could fund his political aspirations.

Saucedo-Rodriguez remained on the stand for the duration of the day, drawing the ire of U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who prompted defense counsel to avoid repeating questions already answered by Saucedo-Rodriguez, who has now testified for nearly 11 hours between the two days.

Saucedo-Rodriguez’s wife, who was driving the load car and also cooperating with federal agents, is expected to be called to the stand before the trial’s end.

The third day of trial will begin at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday with Saucedo-Rodriguez still on the stand for cross-examination by the defense.