Ex-officer’s arrest highlights case against assistant chief

Edinburg Assistant Chief Juan Hernandez poses for photos after his swearing in at Edinburg City Hall on Monday, Mar. 11, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — An officer’s recent arrest once again shined a light on an investigation here against an assistant police chief accused of misusing the police union’s credit card to purchase JLo tickets.

On Wednesday, former Edinburg officer Armando Celedon faced criminal charges for allegedly advising a woman to forge a signature on a legal document. But his arrest also spurred questions about an investigation Celedon initiated against Edinburg Assistant Police Chief Juan “Jay” Hernandez, with several sources attributing the arrest to backlash.

During Celedon’s reign as president of the Edinburg police union, members voted to follow through on an investigation against Hernandez.

Hernandez, himself, served as president of the union, but stepped down in March when Chief Cesar Torres promoted him from patrolman to assistant chief without giving any consideration to lieutenants or sergeants at the time, sources with the police department said.

Union rules prohibit high-ranking officers from serving as president, forcing Hernandez to step down. And that’s when Celedon, his successor, took over as president and noticed discrepancies in the union’s credit card.

According to Monitor archives, an internal audit revealed Hernandez purchased eight tickets for Jennifer Lopez’s concert in June at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. Hernandez had been authorized to purchase four tickets for a 5k fundraiser, but the purchase of the four other tickets, which Hernandez is accused of buying at a cost of $600, had not been authorized.

Texas Rangers have since initiated a misappropriation investigation, according to information from Lt. Johnny Hernandez, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

“I can confirm an investigation at Edinburg PD, but will not identify any suspect(s) at this time,” Hernandez said Tuesday via text message. “The case is under investigation.”

Torres, the police chief, has not returned calls for comment regarding Hernandez’s case. Sources inside the department, however, said the assistant chief has yet to face any disciplinary action.

Contact information for Hernandez was not immediately available Thursday.