Hidalgo Co. drug traffickers detail operation in court

The long anticipated trial for the Hidalgo County drug conspiracy began Tuesday.

It's all in connection to the Panama Unit scandal Action 4 News has followed since the scandal broke December 2012.

On trial is former Hidalgo County Sheriff TMs deputy Jorge Garza.

The man is accused with eight other law men and three drug traffickers for stealing narcotics from drug owners.

Many times the men would conduct fake traffic stops to deceive drug owners into thinking law enforcement seized their loads of marijuana.

The ~crooked TM crooks would then sell the dope themselves and split the profits evenly.

Graza is the only man indicted not to enter a plea deal, maintaining his innocence.

Before the trial even started, defense attorney Lilly Ann Gutierrez asked for a continuance claiming she did not have enough time to prepare for a trial.

Judge Randy Crane made the motion to proceed to trial.

U.S. attorney James Sturgis called three witnesses to the stand Tuesday; David Olivarez, Fernando Guerra Jr. and Fernando Guerra Sr.

All three have pled guilty in the drug conspiracy ring and made it known they were receiving a lesser sentence in return for their honest testimonies in court.

Guerra Sr. testified the defendant, Jorge Garza was the deputy conducting the fake traffic stops.

Garza was never a member of the Panama Unit. The Guerra TMs however worked with both HCSO deputies and members of the separate Panama Unit to steal narcotics in 2011-2012.

Both Olivarez and Guerra Jr. said they never met or saw the deputy who made the stops, they mostly dealt with former HCSO deputy James Phil J.P. Flores.

Witnesses claimed the fake stops were conducted more than ten times near the intersection of Montecristo Rd. and Jesus-Flores Rd. in northeast Hidalgo County.

The Guerra TMs claimed the father-son drug trafficking operation stole loads averaging anywhere between 300-500 pounds at a time.

Guerra Sr. testified on the stand that on multiple occasions he made $1,000 to $2,000 donations to the re-election campaign of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino. Guerra said while the sheriff himself never aided in the drug conspiracy, other top ranking officials did.

The alleged mastermind behind the operation, former HCSO deputy James Phil JP Flores will take the stand Wednesday..

Follow Action 4 News on Twitter for live updates throughout the trial.

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