Trial under way for former Edinburg officer

As one former police chief heads to prison for aiding drug runners, another similar trial involving an Edinburg police officer and a U.S. Border Patrol agent continues in a Houston federal court.

The jury trial of former Edinburg police officer Hector Beltran, Border Patrol agent Daniel Polanco and Carmen Saldana Myers began July 8, with the government accusing Myers and a dozen other drug runners of using corrupt law enforcement to move cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston.

The investigation, part of Operation Blue Shame, began in 2010 and resulted in the arrest of 15 people, including four law enforcement officials: Beltran, Polanco, a former Harris County constable and a Houston police officer. Two others who were also indicted remain fugitive, court records show.

Operation Blue Shame is also responsible for putting former La Joya Police Chief Geovani Hernandez behind bars. His trial recently ended with a guilty conviction, and on Thursday, a federal judge sentenced Hernandez to 20 years in prison.

The government contends members of an unnamed drug trafficking organization paid off law enforcement to help them coordinate fake drug seizures in Edcouch and Houston and later sold the stolen drugs. The officials would allegedly seize cocaine, but turn in sham drugs to their agencies. The actual cocaine would then head to Houston to be sold there.

At the time of their indictments in 2016, both Beltran and Polanco were veterans of their respective agencies. Beltran was a 14-year-veteran of the Edinburg police department who once served as president of its union, and Polanco had been an agent for nine years.

Both are now facing up to life in prison, if convicted of the charges levied against them. The government charged Beltran with two conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine charges and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Polanco faces the same charges, plus one count of making a false statement to a government agent.

The trial appears to be at least four days in, with the government still making its case against the three defendants. According to court notes, prosecutors have already called on a dozen people to testify: Carlos Oyervides, Mario Solis, Eduardo Bazan, Ignacio Leal, Michael Burner, Ben Garza, Jaime Rosas, Martin Rodriguez, Primitivo Rodriguez, Armando Celedon, Efrain Martinez and David Valdez.

Most of the documents in the case, however, are sealed.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison appointed an attorney for the government’s material witness, Monica Garcia, who is believed to have crucial information that could impact the case. No other action has been noted.