McALLEN — The Edcouch police officer accused of helping a drug trafficking organization coordinate fake drug seizures made his initial appearance in federal court Monday.
Vicente Salinas, 41, of Elsa, stood inside the jury box inside U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter E. Ormsby’s courtroom Monday and heard the charge against him in connection with a drug trafficking organization operation that took place in the Rio Grande Valley.
Salinas, who responded with a quick “yes sir,” after he was asked if he understood the charge against him, conspiracy to possess and distribute 500 grams of cocaine, was arrested Friday by Homeland Security Investigations Agents.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) confirms they were working an enforcement action in the Edcouch Elsa, Texas, area that resulted in the arrest of one individual. No further details can be provided since the case remains ongoing,” according to a release from Homeland Security Investigations officials.
The charge stems from a March 18, 2013, seizure where Edcouch police officers took into their possession 15 bundles of cocaine weighing about 17 kilos from an abandoned taxi. The cocaine was transferred to the Edcouch police station where they remained in storage for about four days, according to the criminal complaint.
But when HIDTA officers received the bundles, they discovered four of the 15 bundles contained blocks of wood, leaving the remaining 11 bundles to weigh approximately 12.7 kilos, according to the complaint.
“A photographic comparison of the bundles initially seized by the Edcouch Police Department with those submitted to HITDA revealed that the four bundles that contained wood had been switched, made to look like the original bundles, but were not part of the March 18, 2013 seizure,” according to the complaint. “The four bundles that had been switched weighed more than 4 kilograms.”
Salinas’ arrest comes about a month after federal agents arrested four members of a drug trafficking organization accused of hiring corrupt law enforcement officers to help coordinate fake drug seizures in Edcouch and Houston and later sell the stolen drugs, court documents show.
Mario Alejandro Solis, 37, Dimas DeLeon, 41, Carmen Saldaña Meyer, 60, and Carlos Aaron Oyervides, 40, are all accused of working for a drug trafficking organization and are facing similar federal charges of possession with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine, according to court documents.
Oyervides, of Houston, was also arrested on March 4 in connection the redistribution of narcotics stolen by the drug trafficking organization. On April 26, 2013, police officers in Houston discovered 18 kilograms of cocaine inside a 1996 Mazda MVP that was abandoned with the engine still running in a ditch. Lab analysis indicated that the bundles contained less than one percent cocaine, according to court documents.
In May 2014, Oyervides admitted that he assisted co-conspirators of a drug trafficking organization to stage the April 26, 2013, drug seizure of sham cocaine in order to make the unwitting narcotics source of supply believe the cocaine had been seized by law enforcement which enabled them to steal the drug load and to sell the real cocaine, court documents show.
On March 24, 2015, Meyer admitted to investigators that she was one of the co-conspirators and her role was to provide a copy of the police report documenting the seizure to the owner of the cocaine. Meyer told investigators that she went to Reynosa, Mexico, and provided the owner with false documentation knowing the cocaine had been stolen during the April 26, 2013, seizure in Houston.
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