Feds: Valley teacher moonlighted as cartel associate

McALLEN — In an attempt to supplement their incomes, teachers sometimes take on second jobs. But according to federal prosecutors here, one local man taught middle school Spanish by day and worked as an associate to the cartels by night.

These details were made public Monday in a criminal complaint filed in federal court against Jorge Ignacio Cavazos, who government officials say supplemented his teaching income by working for a Reynosa-based drug cartel for nearly two years.

Homeland Security Investigations agents, who work as the investigations arm for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, arrested the teacher Monday after he admitted to his role in a drug-trafficking organization that worked to smuggle illicit drugs into the country.

Cavazos, who has been licensed in Texas as an educator for nearly 20 years dating back to June 1998, told HSI agents he “had been assisting” a drug cartel based in Reynosa by unloading carloads of narcotics, which were imported from Mexico into the U.S., since 2016, the complaint states.

The 50-year-old McAllen resident and middle school teacher at Abraham Lincoln Middle School in McAllen, where he taught Spanish, told federal agents he had been facilitating the movement of drugs for the cartel on a weekly basis since 2016.

Cavazos, a U.S. citizen, wasn’t on agents’ radar until about six months ago, when HSI agents received a tip about a vehicle loaded with drugs from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials out of the Pharr port of entry.

On July 20, 2017 a Mexican national attempted to enter the U.S. with about 11 kilos of cocaine hidden in an altered compartment inside a black Nissan Altima, court record shows.

Four months later, in November 2017, HSI agents received additional information from an informant who was cooperating with them about the seizure of the 11 kilos in July 2017.

“The (informant) stated that the aforementioned vehicle was utilized on several occasions to transport narcotics into the U.S. at the direction of a drug trafficking organization operating in Reynosa, Tamaulipas (Mexico),” the complaint states. “The (drug trafficking organization) requested that after the vehicle successfully entered the U.S., it needed to be turned over (to) a male subject in the U.S.”

The informant identified Cavazos as the recipient of the drugs from the cartel and recalled one instance on July 19, 2017, when Cavazos traveled to a McAllen Walmart to pick up the black Nissan Altima, which the informant claimed was loaded with drugs, the criminal complaint states.

“Cavazos admitted that the (cartel) sent vehicles loaded with narcotics on a weekly basis,” the complaint read, further noting that Cavazos was “responsible for receiving the vehicle” in the U.S. and extracting packages of several kilos of cocaine, and “sometimes other narcotics from hidden compartments within the vehicle.”

McAllen ISD spokesman Mark May confirmed Cavazos’ arrest in connection with federal drug smuggling charges and said the teacher had been placed on leave, but it is unclear whether or not he would continue to be paid.

“On late Wednesday evening, we secured confirmation of the arrest of one of our teachers,” read a statement released by McAllen ISD officials. “We are following our protocols and have placed him on administrative leave and are notifying the Texas Education Agency of the situation. Due to laws protecting privacy rights, we are limited in the information we can disclose. However, we want to reassure the community that the safety of our students and staff remains our top priority. We are committed to maintaining a school environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.”

May did not immediately know how long Cavazos had been teaching with the district.

Cavazos, who made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Peter E. Ormsby Tuesday morning, faces one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute over 5 kilograms of cocaine, court records show.

Calls and messages left with Cavazos’ attorney, McAllen-based Eric S. Jarvis, went unreturned as of press time.

Cavazos, who remains in custody, is due back in federal court Monday for a bond hearing.