Texas Sheriff Indicted in Large-Scale Cocaine, Marijuana Operation

FBI agents arrested a South Texas sheriff at his office Tuesday after he was indicted on drug charges alleging he was involved in a large-scale cocaine and marijuana smuggling operation.

Starr County Sheriff Reymundo Guerra was named in a 19-count indictment along with more than a dozen others people swept up in "Operation Carlito's Weigh." Guerra is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana; accessory after the fact, for an alleged suggestion he made to a co-defendant to use false documents to avoid apprehension; and, facilitating the drug trafficking conspiracy through use of a telephone.

The first count alone carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life as well as a $4 million fine.

Guerra was added to the indictment after the FBI searched his Rio Grande City offices in early September. It wasn't immediately clear if Guerra had an attorney. Calls to his office seeking comment were referred to Starr County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Rene Fuentes, who was not immediately available for comment.

In announcing the indictment Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said, public corruption is a top priority in the in the southern part of the state.

Ralph Diaz, Special Agent in Charge of FBI in San Antonio said, "We are hopeful that this type of investigation will prove to be a deterrent to those who are considering engaging in violations of the law while enjoying the public's trust."

The first indictment in the case came in August.

The FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, IRS, Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office and Houston Police Department participated in the joint investigation.

Prosecutors planned to ask a federal magistrate Tuesday to hold Guerra without bond pending a full bond hearing.

Guerra's arrest is not the first time a South Texas sheriff, or even a Starr County sheriff, has ended up on the other side of the law.

In 1998, Starr County Sheriff Eugenio "Gene" Falcon Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiracy after an informant posing as a bail bondsman paid Falcon $11,050 in bribes for inmate referrals.

In 1994, Zapata County Sheriff Romeo T. Ramirez admitted to accepting bribes from federal agents pretending to be drug traffickers. The same year, Hidalgo County Sheriff Brigido "Brig" Marmolejo Jr. was found guilty of accepting bribes from convicted drug dealers in exchange for arranging conjugal visits at the county jail.

And in 2005, former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu was sentenced to more than 24 years in federal prison and a $5,000 fine for using his office to lead a criminal enterprise that extorted money from drug dealers and other criminals.