Top lawman opens up about disgraced former Valley sheriffs

Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino is expected to learn his fate for money laundering

Even as a kid back in the 1950's, Larry Spence dreamed about wearing a badge.

"The first badge I ever wore was as a patrol boy here," he said while pointing to a picture of himself as a child.

The role as a good guy and community leader kept the boy from Indiana eyeing a career in law enforcement which began 48 years ago this June 1st.

His office in Willacy County today as sheriff holds a treasure trove of memorabilia.

From the Hoover Memorial Award on his wall to the Policeman's Bible on his desk, Spence has proven himself a leader in the eyes of those he serves.

After all, he's been sheriff in the county since 1985.

I like to help people and I think they see that, he told Action 4 TMs Ryan Wolf. They know my heart. It's never been about me. It's always been about who I serve. I was raised if you work for somebody; you show up for work and earn your pay. And at the same time you don't do anything wrong."

It's not the case for other sheriffs all around him.

Over the last decade in the Rio Grande Valley, he's seen their rise and fall to corruption.

In 2005, former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu received 24 years in prison for protecting drug traffickers.

In 2009, former Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra received a 5-year sentence for helping drug smugglers evade law enforcement.

This Thursday, former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino is expected to learn his fate for money laundering.

He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

I've had some good friends, good friends that wore a badge, that's gone to jail, he said. And it's surprised me. They didn't need the money and they just got caught up in one thing or another and they're paying for it or they've already paid for it."

As accusations started to swirl around Lupe Trevino in 2013, Sheriff Spence said he reached out to him over the phone.

Trevino is someone who he called a friend. And for the first time he's revealing intimate details about that conversation to Action 4 News.

I offered to sit down and talk with them, the sheriff explained. I offered to find a place to stay to get away from it for a weekend or something like that just to have some time away from all this stuff."

The sheriff says he never took him up on it.

Despite their convictions, he believes the Valley former sheriff leaders who TMve disgraced the badge are good people who ultimately made bad decisions.

As for how he's been able to keep corruption out of his office, the sheriff credits his Christian faith and reverent fear of God.

67-year-old Spence has two years left in his term.

He hasn TMt decided whether or not to run again.

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