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Drug smuggler convicted in Panama Unit scandal will be released from prison after cooperating in Rudy Delgado bribery case

1 month 2 weeks 2 days ago Wednesday, August 12 2020 Aug 12, 2020 August 12, 2020 10:56 AM August 12, 2020 in News - Local
Fernando Guerra Sr. 54, of Edinburg in a Hidalgo County jail booking photo from March 2012. (Photo courtesy of the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office.)

A drug smuggler convicted in the Panama Unit corruption scandal will be released from prison after cooperating with federal prosecutors in another high-profile corruption case.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane resentenced Fernando Guerra Sr., 54, of Hidalgo County to time served on Wednesday morning — reducing his sentence by nearly three years.

Guerra provided federal prosecutors with information about state District Judge Rudy Delgado, who was convicted on bribery and obstruction of justice charges last year.

“It sounds like he was very helpful to the government and the prosecution, even though he never testified,” Crane said.

In July, a year after a jury found Delgado guilty, prosecutors filed a sealed motion to reduce Guerra’s sentence.

While the motion remains sealed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arthur “Rob” Jones said Wednesday that prosecutors filed the motion because Guerra cooperated in the Delgado case.

Prosecutors summarized the information in a sentencing memo, which identified Guerra as “Person 4.”

“The FBI also interviewed a cooperating defendant, Person 4, who stated that on two occasions in approximately 2004, he paid cash bribes to the defendant on behalf of a McAllen-area civil attorney, Attorney 3,” according to the sentencing memo, which prosecutors filed on Sept. 20, 2019, in the Delgado case. “On both occasions, Attorney 3 asked Person 4 to deliver to Delgado envelopes that Person 4 believed to be filled with cash.”

The sentencing memo included a footnote about Guerra.

“Person 4 had previously been convicted of drug trafficking in an unrelated case and was serving a sentence of incarceration,” according to the footnote. “He provided this information to the government in hopes of receiving additional credit for cooperation, but no such promises were made to Person 4.”

The government recommended a 15-month sentence reduction to reward Guerra for his cooperation.

“We felt he was telling us the truth,” Jones said. “He was credible.”

Attorney Javier O. Martinez of Houston, who represented Guerra on Wednesday, recommended time served.

Guerra is not a United States citizen, Martinez said, and probably will be deported after the U.S. Bureau of Prisons releases him from custody.

“He’s still married to his wife. His family in Mexico is waiting for him,” Martinez said. “He’s going to have a place to live and he’s going to have a place to go to.”

Guerra earned a GED in prison and never had any disciplinary problems, Martinez said, adding that Guerra is ready to rejoin society.

“Mr. Guerra has done everything that he can to stay out of trouble,” Martinez said. “He’s lived a quiet, peaceful, law-abiding life while in prison. He’s spent his time trying to rectify what he was originally arrested for.”

Unlike other people convicted in the Panama Unit scandal, Martinez said that Guerra never sought publicity.

“He’s not giving interviews to Rolling Stone magazine,” Martinez said.

Wednesday marked the second time Crane had reduced Guerra’s sentence.

Guerra purchased stolen drug shipments from members of the Panama Unit, a special anti-drug squad created for Mission police Inv. Jonathan Treviño, the son of Hidalgo County Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño.

The Panama Unit stole drugs and cash from criminals, according to court records. Acting on tips, they conducted illegal traffic stops and raided stash houses.

Guerra purchased the stolen drugs, according to trial transcripts. He also worked with other corrupt law enforcement officers, including the Hidalgo County Crime Stoppers coordinator and investigators with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office.

Four members of the Panama Unit were arrested in December 2012. A grand jury eventually indicted nine law enforcement officers and three drug traffickers, including Guerra.

Faced with a lengthy prison sentence, Guerra pleaded guilty and cooperated with the government.

Crane sentenced him to 15 years in prison.  After a change in federal sentencing guidelines, Crane reduced the sentence to 12 years and 3 months.

With credit for good conduct, Guerra had a projected release date of July 17, 2023, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

The new sentence handed down Wednesday allows Guerra to be released immediately. Martinez said he anticipated that Guerra would be transferred to an immigration detention center for deportation proceedings.

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