Former Hidalgo County law enforcement officer pleads guilty to gunrunning
A former Hidalgo County law enforcement officer pleaded guilty to gunrunning on Friday.
Jose Cruz, 49, of Mission pleaded guilty Friday morning, when he appeared by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane.
Cruz pleaded guilty to smuggling goods from the United States, a federal felony. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss another charge against him.
Attorney Richard Bruce Gould, who represents Cruz, couldn't immediately be reached for comment after the hearing. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas couldn't immediately comment on the plea.
Cruz graduated from Mission High School and studied engineering at Texas A&I University in Kingsville, according to a job application he submitted to the Mission Police Department in August 2002.
After working at mailbox stores in Hidalgo and McAllen, he switched careers.
Cruz joined the Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office in January 1993, according to Texas Commission on Law Enforcement records. During the next two decades, Cruz worked off-and-on for the Palmview Police Department, the Hidalgo Police Department and the Mission Police Department.
He also worked for the United Nations from 2000 to 2002 as part of the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
“The main task is to gather low level and high level intelligence concerning drugs, weapons smuggling, and terrorists (sic) information,” according to a copy of his resume.
He resigned from the Mission Police Department in February 2012. Cruz, however, remained a law enforcement officer and volunteered for the Precinct 3 Constable's Office, which commissioned him as a reserve deputy.
At some point, Cruz became the manager of The Gun Rack, a gun shop near the intersection of North 6th Street and Business 83 in McAllen.
Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approached Cruz in November 2019. He confessed to falsifying paperwork as part of a scheme to acquire “AK-47 type” rifles manufactured by Century Arms.
The criminal complaint against Cruz explained how the scheme worked.
On Nov. 5, 2019, Cruz added a Century Arms rifle to paperwork for a customer who “did not purchase or request the AK-47 style rifle,” according to the criminal complaint. Cruz actually sold the rifle to someone else without documenting the transaction.
The scheme involved at least six rifles, according to the indictment against him. At least one of the rifles was recovered in Mexico.
Cruz pleaded guilty Friday to smuggling goods from the United States. He faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison and a fine not to exceed $250,000.
As a result of the conviction, Cruz will be prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.