Ex-Edinburg cop gets 10 years for stealing drugs from cartel

A former Edinburg police officer was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Wednesday for his role in a scheme to steal loads of drugs from a drug trafficking organization.

U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison sentenced Hector Beltran to the 120-month term during Beltran’s sentencing hearing in Houston. It came nearly seven months after a federal jury found Beltran guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine.

According to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas, the court, in handing down its sentence, noted that Beltran abused his position of trust as a law enforcement officer and additionally used a gun during the commission of the offenses in the indictment.

Testimony at Beltran’s trial showed that the now ex-cop personally conducted and assisted other law enforcement agencies with the seizure of approximately 600 kilograms of what was later determined to be fake marijuana and nearly 170 kilograms of fake cocaine.

The jury also heard the drug trafficking organization paid Beltran for his participation in each seizure of fake drugs.

Beltran testified at trial and denied participating in the scheme, but jurors ultimately found him guilty.

The 44-year-old was one of multiple law enforcement officers, which included a U.S. Border Patrol agent, who worked with drug traffickers to steal loads of drugs from the sources of supply in Mexico.

Jurors heard that an investigation began in 2011 when authorities targeted a drug trafficking organization involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. During the course of the investigation, agents learned the organization was stealing cocaine and marijuana from the source of supply with the assistance of different law enforcement officers, the government’s release stated.

The scheme was to pose as drug transporters. However, instead of transporting the cocaine and marijuana, they sold the drugs and told the source of supply that law enforcement had seized the narcotics.

In their effort to cover up the theft, the drug trafficking organization created fake bundles of cocaine and marijuana and used law enforcement to seize it. The drug trafficking organization then provided law enforcement seizure documents to the source of supply.

During the course of the investigation, agents discovered Beltran conducted more than 10 seizures of fake drugs while working as an Edinburg police officer. Most involved the drug trafficking organization leaving the fake drug bundles in abandoned vehicles, giving Beltran the vehicle’s location and having him seize them. Since the seizures did not involve any arrests, the fake drugs were not tested and put in evidence lockers.

One of Beltran’s co-conspirators, former Border Patrol agent Daniel Polanco, who was also found guilty by a jury in July, is scheduled for trial Feb. 24 in connection with a separate federal charge of threatening a Homeland Security Investigations agent at a court hearing in Houston in early October 2019, records show.

According to an Oct. 7 filing, Polanco allegedly threatened a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations agent at the conclusion of a scheduled court hearing related to Polanco’s July conviction in a drug trafficking case.

The 37-year-old ex-Border Patrol agent was in Houston to argue for a motion for a new trial that the court subsequently denied.

After the hearing, Polanco was headed toward the exit when he turned to an HSI agent, who had been present during the jury trial in July, and allegedly made comments that the agent took as a threat.

The complaint indicated Polanco walked toward the special agent, “who was sitting in the last row of the courtroom closest to the exit,” following the conclusion of the hearing.

“When (Polanco) was feet away from (the special agent), he stopped, pointed at (the agent) and said: ‘This is gonna come back to you m———–. You’ll see,’” the complaint further read. “(Polanco’s) tone was angry and menacing. (Polanco) then opened the exit door and walked out of the courtroom.”

The HSI agent, according to the complaint, felt “alarmed, concerned, and threatened” by Polanco’s statement and gesture.

Polanco, who has yet to be sentenced in the drug trafficking case, remains in federal custody pending his late February trial. Beltran was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future, the release stated.

lzazueta@themonitor.com