A former high-ranking Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office official is asking that his federal supervised release violation hearing be postponed for three months because he believes he will prevail in the state credit card abuse case against him.
Jose A. Padilla, 60, had been scheduled for that federal hearing Friday morning, but it was rescheduled to March.
“We believe that Mr. Padilla has a high degree of likelihood of success in his defense. In order to find such success, it is important that Mr. Padilla be available to assist in his defense,” the unopposed motion for a continuance states.
The hearing has been postponed several times since Padilla’s August 2019 arrest by Pharr police.
Padilla, who worked closely with former sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, was arrested on Aug. 28, 2019, by Pharr police on 10 charges of credit card abuse and three charges of forgery of a financial instrument.
Federal authorities had previously arrested Padilla on Christmas Eve in 2013 and accused him of taking drug money delivered to him by a man named Julio A. Davila.
Padilla is accused of using the money on lavish vacations that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and ended up being convicted and spending a little more than three years in prison.
Court testimony alleged Treviño also took money from Davila. The former sheriff, however, spent five years in prison for taking an illegal campaign contribution from Tomas Reyes Gonzalez, aka “El Gallo,” a drug trafficker from Weslaco.
Davila was associated with Fernando Guerra Sr., a drug trafficker who bought narcotics from the corrupt Panama Unit, a band of rogue cops who stole drug loads and resold the narcotics.
Treviño’s son, Jonathan, a former Mission police officer, is still serving a prison sentence for his role in the Panama Unit.
While the former sheriff has gained little attention since his release from federal prison, Padilla found himself back in trouble with the law when Pharr police arrested him and accused him of a credit card abuse scheme that lasted from March 1, 2018 to Dec. 4, 2018, involving approximately $109,251.13, according to the indictment and the probable cause affidavit against him.
A grand jury indicted Padilla on Nov. 17 on three counts of credit card or debit card abuse, a count of theft of property, more than $30,000 but less than $150,000, a count of forgery of a financial instrument and a count of engaging in organized criminal activity.
That indictment includes an enhancement, which would impact sentencing if he is convicted, because of his federal conviction.
He’s scheduled to be arraigned on those charges next Wednesday, records show.
Padilla had been released from federal prison in September 2017. Within six months, Pharr police allege he engaged in a pattern of credit card abuse.
The investigation leading to Padilla’s recent arrest began on Feb. 20, 2019, when Adalberto Campero, the president of Unimex Logistics, a trucking company, reported to Pharr police that he initiated an investigation and audit into the company’s financials and learned the company had suffered a loss of nearly $110,000, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Pharr investigators allege that Padilla, along with Kathy Judith Morales, 32, and Maligros Gomez, all employees, made unauthorized purchases.
Morales is Padilla’s co-defendant and she is charged with 13 counts of credit card abuse, engaging in organized criminal activity and theft of property, more than $30,000 but less than $150,000.
She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, records show.
Court records don’t return an indictment or arrest record for Gomez.
Pharr police, however, say Gomez waived her Miranda rights on April 2, 2019, and provided a recorded interview with investigators.
“Gomez admitted to making unauthorized purchases, that she was with Padilla when some of the purchases were made, that they dropped off merchandise shipped to a residence in Pharr under the control of Padilla and that Padilla even had merchandise shipped to a residence he owned in Edinburg,” the affidavit states.
According to Pharr police, Gomez said that she and Padilla were convicted felons who socialized outside of the workplace and that Padilla had attempted to purchase ammunition using the company credit card.
Campero, the company president, later confirmed that he received ammunition from Padilla, police say.
Also in April, police interviewed Morales, who investigators say waived her Miranda rights, provided a video interview and admitted to making unauthorized purchases.
“On 05/29/2019, Padilla initially informed Investigator Vasquez that the company owed him money and that all purchases were authorized by Milagros Gomez, however, Gomez implicated Padilla and Morales that they all made unauthorized purchases,” the affidavit states.
The 13 affidavits against Padilla on the charges list approximately $6,000 in what Pharr police say are unauthorized transactions.
Those transactions allegedly occurred at Dillards in McAllen and Austin and at H-E-B stores in Pharr and McAllen.
The affidavits for the alleged Dillards purchases allege Padilla bought merchandise while investigators allege he used the company credit card to buy food and a variety of gift cards, including Visa, Nike, Papadeaux, Walmart, Logans and Longhorn Steakhouse gift cards from the H-E-B locations.
All of the alleged unauthorized purchases listed in the probable cause affidavits occurred in November 2018.
On Aug. 28, 2019, the day of Padilla’s arrest, Pharr police executed a search warrant at his Weslaco residence.
“There was evidence of receipts, giftcards and property recovered associated with the unauthorized transactions,” the affidavit states.
Padilla bailed out on a total of $65,000 in bonds the next day.