Harlingen-based deputy constables arrested on extortion charges

Two former deputies with the Cameron County Precinct 5 Constable’s Office have been arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right and wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors say a grand jury returned a 12-count indictment on Tuesday against Benito De La Cruz Jr., 45, of San Benito, and Armando Gonzalez Jr., 31, of Weslaco.

They were arrested Thursday morning and are scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Friday morning.

In a news release, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick says the pair are accused of running license plate and criminal history checks in exchange for money or gifts.

Prosecutors say the men either performed or asked others to perform the database checks.

De La Cruz is also charged with five counts of lying to FBI special agents.

The men face 20 years in federal prison for extortion or wire fraud and a up to five years for the conspiracy charge. De La Cruz faces an additional five years for each count of lying to federal agents and up to a $250,000 fine.

De La Cruz and Gonzalez reportedly no longer work with the constable’s office, but are still in law enforcement. The Precinct 5 constable’s office is based out of Harlingen.