EDINBURG — The Hidalgo County Judge’s Office hired a former justice of the peace once accused of smuggling drugs and laundering money, but his employment appeared to be short-lived.
It’s unclear what former Hidalgo County Precinct 4 Place 2 Justice of the Peace Rene Torres was hired to do, but it didn’t last long. Sources indicated he worked for Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez’s office for about two weeks, but the county would not comment on details about his employment.
The only information Hidalgo County officials released was that he was hired to work for the judge’s office, but was no longer employed.
“I can tell you Mr. Torres was brought onboard and he is no longer associated to Hidalgo County, to our knowledge,” Cortez’s chief of staff Isaac Sulemana said last week. “Anything specific is going to be something that I can’t discuss.”
As chief of staff, Sulemana is responsible for all of Cortez’s hires, county spokeswoman Julia Benitez Sullivan said.
Torres, a brother to Edinburg Councilman David Torres and brother-in-law to Hidalgo County Commissioner Ellie Torres, was named in an eight-count federal grand jury indictment in December 2001.
He was subsequently arrested February 2002 along with two other men — Javier Betancourt and Luciano Huerta — on charges related to money laundering and smuggling more than 1,200 kilos of cocaine and 1,800 kilos of marijuana. Federal prosecutors, however, dismissed the case against Torres about two years later, in May 2003.
Details about the court proceedings are unknown because many of the documents in the case against Torres are not available via Pacer, an electronic public access service of United States federal court documents.
The other two men, however, were eventually sentenced to prison in connection to the case. Huerta was sentenced to 188 months, or more than 15 years, but his sentence was reduced in September 2016 by about three years.
Betancourt was sentenced to 88 months, or more than seven years, and was placed on supervised release for another five years after that.