Panama Unit

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The Panama Unit was a special task force comprising Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office deputies and members of the Mission Police Department that answered directly to Sheriff Lupe Trevino, despite him denying such in court.[1] The Unit was designed to target street-level drug dealers.

The Unit[edit]

The Panama Unit was a narcotics task force composed of several sheriff's deputies from the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office and officers from the Mission Police Dept. in the Rio Grande Valley. The task force answered directly to Hidalgo Co. Sheriff Lupe Trevino.[1] The Panama Unit consisted of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino's son, Johnathon Trevino, the de facto leader of the unit. The son of the City of Hidalgo's Police Chief was also a member of the unit. The drug conspiracy charges against the members, including the head of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Crimestoppers unit, date back to early 2009.[2]

The Trial[edit]

All but one plead guilty to helping certain drug traffickers steal drug loads from other drug dealers. Deputy Jorge Garza, subsequently found guilty, plead not guilty and went to trial. Many details about the inner workings of the Sheriff's department came to fruition. Members of the Panama Unit would conduct bogus traffic stops and guard drug loads for certain traffickers.[3] The District Attorney for Hidalgo County, Rene Guerra, has said "“Their credibility went from absolute to zero." As a result, he believes he will have to throw out 50-75 cases from state court that relied heavily on the Panama Unit's testimony.[4] Sheriff Trevino has stated that "personally and professionally,” Dec. 12, 2012, the day many of the lawmen were arrested by the FBI, was “my 9/11.” [5] All men were found guilty or pleaded guilty and Jonathan Trevino was sentenced to 17 years for his role.

Related Case[edit]

On Christmas Eve of 2013, Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office Commander Jose Padilla was indicted on drug and money laundering charges. While at the Sheriff's office, Padilla, who was considered the number 2 lawman of Hidalgo County [6] oversaw the now defunct Panama Unit.[7] During the Panama Unit trial with Deputy Jorge Garza, federal judge Randy Crane notified Padilla that he was the subject of a federal investigation and Padilla subsequently plead the Fifth in court and refused to testify.[8] Padilla is accused of helping provide protection to drug traffickers in exchange for money.[6]


  1. ^ a b Dave Hendricks (2013-03-03). "Documents: Panama Unit answered directly to Sheriff Treviño - The Monitor: Local News". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Former South Texas sheriff's deputy facing drug charges enters not guilty plea". Fox News. 2013-04-05. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  3. ^ Dave Hendricks (2013-08-03). "‘Not a powerful man’: After rise from street cop to local political elite, Treviño questioned in corruption trial - Local News". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  4. ^ Jacob Fischler (2013-05-30). "50-75 ‘tarnished’ Panama Unit cases to be thrown out, Guerra says - The Monitor: Local News". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  5. ^ Ildefonso Ortiz (2013-07-10). "Sheriff: Panama Unit scandal 'personally and professionally … my 9/11' - The Monitor: Local News". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  6. ^ a b Ildefonso Ortiz (2013-12-24). "Feds arrest Hidalgo County sheriff's No. 2 man - The Monitor: Home". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  7. ^ Hendricks, Dave. "Sheriff’s commander indicted on drug, money laundering charges - Brownsville Herald: Valley". Brownsville Herald. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 
  8. ^ Ildefonso Ortiz (2013-08-01). "Sheriff's commander refuses to testify in Panama Unit case; DA's investigator does same, is fired - The Monitor: Local News". The Monitor. Retrieved 2014-01-21. 

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