McALLEN — A veteran police officer who also worked as a DEA task force officer will serve six months probation after a federal judge sentenced the man during a hearing Tuesday, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Ricardo Ruiz Jr. to probation in connection with a case in which he allegedly gave false statements to federal agents, records show.
Ruiz pleaded guilty in early February to the aforementioned charge; in exchange, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining four counts against him, which included 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 stated.
Originally, Ruiz, a former McAllen police officer, and three others 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.
Jesus Fabian Muñoz, Juan Alberto Gonzalez-Valdez and Ruben Torres-Garcia were also named in the indictment, court records show.
The document 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, later identified as Ruiz, who worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration who could help him do his job.
Six months later, 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.
“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-Garcia),” the indictment read.
Muñoz told Gonzalez-Valdez it would cost him $1,100 for Ruiz’s services. Gonzalez-Valdez in turn told Torres-Garcia it would cost him $1,800 since he needed help from Ruiz.
Several days later, on May 1, 2017, the indictment alleged Torres-Garcia gave Gonzalez-Valdez the $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 stated.
The indictment alleged 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.
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-Garcia 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 stated.
Gonzalez-Valdez, who was arrested in March 2018 in connection with this conspiracy, pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charges May 2, 2018, court records show. Torres-Garcia, who was arrested in June 2018, pleaded not guilty to the charges he faced that same month, records show.
On Feb. 14, the government decided to drop charges against both Gonzalez-Valdez and Torres-Garcia and subsequently the court agreed to dismiss the charges, court records show.
Ruiz’s co-defendant, Muñoz, who pleaded guilty to the charge against him in February of this year, is scheduled to be sentenced in late May, records show.
Ruiz is the second Rio Grande Valley law enforcement officer to be sentenced to federal prison just this month. On April 9, a federal judge sentenced Juan Fernando Mata, a former Donna ISD police officer, to nearly 11 years in prison for his role in a series of “drug rips.”
Mata allegedly used his capacity as an officer to make traffic stops of suspected drug loaded vehicles that were subsequently “ripped” of their drug loads.