Last defendant in high-profile theft case gets probation

Former McAllen police officer involved in conspiracy

McALLEN — The last defendant involved in a conspiracy to steal a Cadillac from a San Juan man was sentenced Tuesday.

Jesus Fabian Muñoz apologized to the court last Tuesday during his sentencing hearing for his role in an incident in May 2017 that led to the seizure of a San Juan man’s SUV, moments before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane handed down three years probation for the man.

Muñoz was caught up, along with three others — former police officer Ricardo Ruiz Jr., Juan Alberto Gonzalez-Valdez and Ruben Torres-Garcia — in a conspiracy to seize a 2013 Cadillac ATS from an unnamed San Juan man.

According to the government, in October 2016 Muñoz allegedly spoke with Gonzalez-Valdez, a truck driver for a wrecker service called Hnos Rodriguez Guros Inc.

Muñoz is then alleged to have 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.

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.

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 stated. “…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.”

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.

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 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.

Ultimately, Crane sentenced Ruiz to six months probation on April 30, records show.

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 the court subsequently agreed to dismiss the charges, court records show.

Muñoz, who pleaded guilty to a federal statements charge in February of this year, will also be required to participate in the mental health treatment program, court notes show.