EDINBURG — A former police officer here faced criminal charges Wednesday for allegedly advising a woman to forge her husband’s signature on a legal document that authorized her to pay his municipal court citation, according to a criminal complaint filed against the former lawman.
Edinburg Municipal Judge Armando M. Guerra arraigned former police officer Armando Edwardo Celedon, 42, on charges of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor, and tampering with a governmental record, a state jail felony, Wednesday afternoon.
Celedon, a 16-year veteran with the department and former president of the police union, was reportedly fired last week, agency sources said.
Edinburg police released a statement with few details following Celedon’s arraignment Wednesday, indicating he had been placed on “indefinite suspension without pay” following a complaint filed against him for alleged police misconduct.
The release, however, made no mention about the nature of the complaint, when it was filed or who filed it. It also did not indicate when Celedon was placed on indefinite suspension. It only stated that the misconduct complaint merited both an internal affairs and a criminal investigation.
“The Edinburg Criminal Investigations Division discovered that officer Celedon’s actions were consistent with” the charges, the document stated without giving further information.
A criminal complaint filed against the former officer, however, disclosed the details surrounding the case.
According to the complaint, the charges stemmed from a May 24 incident at the municipal court that involved Celedon, a woman named Jessica Salinas, and Edinburg Municipal Court clerk Graciela Garcia.
According to the document, Edinburg police officer Jose Ramos was dispatched to the court June 14 to speak with internal affairs investigator Jose Guzman. Guzman told Ramos to take a report from Edinburg Courts Supervisor Celine Prado and escorted him to her office.
There, Prado told Ramos that on May 24, her subordinate, Garcia, notified her about an incident that she believed could be classified as tampering with a governmental record.
On that day, Garcia said she saw Celedon and Salinas approach the municipal court area, where Salinas subsequently tried to pay a citation for her husband, Richard Salinas.
Jessica Salinas stayed behind the glass counter, while Celedon approached the clerk from inside her office.
Garcia told Celedon she could not take Jessica Salinas’ payment because Salinas did not have a signed authorization form and a plea from her husband — the person who had received the citation.
The clerk then asked Celedon where Richard Salinas was, and Celedon told her he was waiting in the car outside, the complaint stated. Garcia asked if the defendant could step into the building to sign the document and Celedon reportedly said no.
The clerk handed the police officer the necessary documents which Richard Salinas had to personally sign, and as the officer walked away, the clerk asked Jessica Salinas about her husband’s whereabouts.
Richard Salinas was out of town, the woman told the court clerk.
Moments later, Celedon and Jessica Salinas walked out of the building, and a few minutes later, the woman walked back in with a signed document. The clerk asked who had signed the documents and Jessica Salinas said she had done so based on information she obtained from Celedon.
The clerk again refused to accept the payment and Jessica Salinas, who became “very upset” according to the complaint, stormed off with the form to look for Celedon in another part of the building. By this point, however, the clerk had already asked Edinburg city marshal Frank Iglesias to step in.
It’s unclear how the situation ended, but the couple eventually told police they would be willing to testify against Celedon, whom they said was aware that Richard Salinas was not in town as far back as a week before the incident.
Celedon turned himself in to authorities at around noon Wednesday. He walked into the municipal court in plain clothes, escorted by a former colleague, and did not don handcuffs.
Attorney Daniel Sorrells, who said he was only there filling in for the De la Fuente and Solis Law Firm, acted as his counsel. Sorrells, however, declined to comment on the charges.
David Willis, the Edinburg police union attorney, also attended the court proceedings and declined to comment.
Guerra was initially going to hand Celedon a $35,000 cash surety bond, but Sorrells asked the municipal judge to take Celedon’s years of public service into consideration and award him a personal recognizance bond.
Guerra declined to issue the PR bond, but did lower the cash surety bond to $15,000.
Celedon was then transported to the Hidalgo County jail, from where he was later released upon posting bond.
If convicted of the most serious crime against him, the state jail felony, he could face up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of up $10,000.