Former HCSO commander charged with credit card abuse, forgery

A former Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office commander who was sentenced to a little more than three years in federal prison in 2014 is on his way to county jail on new charges.

Jose “Joe” Padilla, of Weslaco, was arrested on 10 counts of credit card abuse and three counts of forgery financial instrument and arraigned Wednesday afternoon, jail records indicate.

Pharr Police Department Sgt. Michael Mendoza confirmed the arrest and Wednesday afternoon, but said he didn’t yet have details on the charges.

Padilla was known as the right-hand man to former sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, who served five years in prison and was released in January of this year. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering after accepting a campaign contribution from a drug trafficker from Weslaco named Tomas Reyes Gonzalez, aka “El Gallo.”

Authorities arrested Padilla on the federal charges on Christmas Eve of 2013.

Federal prosecutors alleged Treviño, who was first elected sheriff in 2005, accepted those contributions between June 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012, and was aware that $70,000 to $120,000 was obtained from illegal activities.

A man named Julio A. Davila who dated former Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Aida Palacios personally delivered cash from Gonzalez to Treviño, federal testimony has revealed. Davila also delivered cash from Gonzalez to Padilla, who supervised the Special Services Bureau, newspaper archives indicate.

Davila also worked with a drug trafficker named Fernando Guerra Sr., who worked with the infamous Panama Unit, a group of corrupt lawmen who stole marijuana and cocaine from other drug traffickers. The Panama Unit included Mission police investigator Jonathan Treviño, the former sheriff’s son.

As for Padilla, he used the drug money to fund lavish trips, including a $40,000 trip to Las Vegas and a $70,000 trip to Colorado, according to newspaper archives.

Before the former commander was sentenced, he told U.S. District Judge Randy Crane that he needed to learn from the experience.

“It was embarrassing on my part, but it is an experience I intend to learn from,” he said at the time.

As of deadline, Padilla was being held on a combined $65,000 in bonds on the charges.