The men who went down with the Panama Unit have been called the dirtiest cops in America, but federal agents believe they weren’t the only corrupted officers operating in 2012.
Hector “JoJo” Mendez, who’s served on Mission police force 17 years and ran for Hidalgo County Pct. 2 constable in 2012, was charged July 16 with possession with intent to distribute cocaine in connection to a three-year-old case. He was released on a $50,000 bond Wednesday.
Mendez is currently on paid suspension and Mission Police Chief Robert Dominguez said he’d hold a meeting with Mendez this week before making a final decision on Mendez’s future with the police force.
“As a law enforcement agency ourselves, we have to back up what the federal officers do,” Dominguez said. “The actions of this one individual do not reflect on all we do and all we stand for.”
“Obviously, every time a situation like this happens, we have to go back and revisit things that we can do differently,” he said. “We had already taken some steps when the Panama situation happened.”
For example, Dominguez said, now Mission’s officers are rotated out of the four different task forces associated with the agency and officers can serve no more than three years on a task force.
Dominguez added before placing an officer on the task force, the department looks at the officer’s criminal history and credit report to ensure the officer is not in a dire financial situation. A polygraph and drug test are also submitted, he said.
In July 2012, Salvador Gonzalez Jr. was arrested after Mendez said he received a tip from an informant who said Gonzalez wanted the informant to transport a load of cocaine from Mission to Chicago.
The next day, a criminal complaint from the 2012 incident states Gonzalez called the informant and told him he parked a Ford Taurus in front of a restaurant on Farm-to-Market 495, and the cocaine was in the trunk. Mendez found the vehicle, and requested a K-9 to sniff for narcotics. The drugs were found in a laundry basket in the trunk, and Gonzalez had been in contact with the informant throughout the transaction, the criminal complaint states.
Gonzalez’s case still is pending in federal court, but his story contradicts Mendez’s version of events, according to a criminal complaint against Mendez released this week.
Gonzalez told federal agents he didn’t deliver the drugs to the restaurant, but to the informant’s home days before it was seized. Also, he said, it was packaged differently and he never used the Ford Taurus to deliver the cocaine anywhere, the complaint states.
The complaint states that in September 2013, a lab found the cocaine seized in July was poor quality, just 18 percent pure.
In June 2015, agents spoke to the informant who told agents Mendez allegedly took the bundles of cocaine shortly after it was delivered to the informant’s Mission house, according to the complaint. It adds the informant said Mendez intended to have the cocaine diluted, “so that the bulk of the narcotic could be stolen and re-distributed for a profit.”
In July, the complaint states, the agents contacted the person who sold the Ford Taurus out of the Pharr area for $400. That person gave agents the phone number for the person who bought the car, and the buyer said the car was re-sold for a profit. In July 2012, two people came to buy the vehicle, and one appeared to be on the phone with someone else, states the complaint. Without a test drive, the vehicle was purchased for $800.
Recrods show Mendez’s cell phone dialed the number for the car owner three times before the seizure in July 2012, the complaint states.
In interviews with federal agents, according to the complaint, Mendez said he knew nothing of any theft, “but made several inconsistent and inaccurate statements concerning his and other interaction with (the informant), his knowledge of the history of the Ford Taurus, and dates and sequence of events during the time of the cocaine seizure.”