Panama Unit scandal continues to widen with new indictment

Garza's family members leaving the federal courthouse

What started out as five separate cases by the FBI, DEA and Homeland Security Investigations has now all been rolled into one case.

A federal grand jury handed down a superseding indictment in the Panama Unit scandal on Wednesday.

Once an anti-drug task force to combat street-level dealing in Hidalgo County, the disbanded unit has become a synonym for corruption.

Some nine law enforcement officers and three drug traffickers have all been charged in five separate criminal complaints over the past five months.

Among those named was Jonathan Trevio, a Mission police officer who is the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevio.

The new, 10-page superseding indictment includes a laundry list of drug officially naming all 12 suspects together.

Among the allegations are taking bribes to escort drug loads and teaming up with predatory drug trafficker Fernando Guerra, Sr.

The Edinburg-based drug trafficker allegedly used corrupt deputies to steal drug loads from rivals, sold them and split the profits.

On Friday morning, retired Hidalgo County Sheriff TMs Office deputy Jorge Garza entered a federal courtroom in handcuffs.

Accused of working with Guerra, the retired deputy pleaded not guilty to the charges.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos issued a $100,000 dollar bond.

Once five percent of that bond is posted, Garza will be placed under house arrest with GPS monitoring and other restrictions.

Among the restrictions: Garza must surrender his passport, may travel outside of south Texas, must surrender all weapons and must not drink alcohol.

Although Garza is retired, Judge Ramos ordered that he may not work in law enforcement if he seeks a job.

Family members for Garza, including his sister Alma R. Garza who once ran for Hidalgo County District Attorney and 389th State District Court judge, declined to comment.

The 11 other suspects in the Panama Unit are all expected back in court next Friday where they'll be arraigned on the new charges.

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