A bailiff at the Hidalgo County Courthouse worked with drug smugglers to steal cocaine — and covered up the thefts with fake documents, according to the federal criminal complaint against him.
FBI agents arrested Hidalgo County Court at Law #6 Bailiff Oscar De La Cruz, 52, of Pharr on Friday.
Handcuffed and wearing a chain around his waist, De La Cruz stood before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker in a courtroom packed with more than 80 people facing immigration and smuggling charges.
De La Cruz acknowledged the allegations against him but said little else. He’ll return to court Tuesday, when the judge may set bond.
“I am hopeful that my client will be released on bond since he has no criminal history, has many ties in this community, and is not a flight risk,” said attorney Santos Maldonado, who represents De La Cruz. “At this stage in the case I have not been able to review the evidence in this case. Therefore I am not able to anticipate how this case may be resolved.”
The criminal complaint against De La Cruz details a scheme to steal cocaine and cover up the thefts with fake court documents.
Agents started investigating De La Cruz in October, when an informant said someone told him “Oscar” at the Hidalgo County Courthouse could make fake documents.
The following month, FBI agents obtained a copy of one of the fake documents.
“The document lists a case number and states that it corresponds to a search allegedly conducted at an address in Edcouch, Texas on March 5, 2017,” according to the criminal complaint. “According to the document, the search resulted in the seizure of six kilograms of cocaine by the Drug Enforcement Administration.”
FBI agents met with the informant’s contact in March 2018.
The informant’s contact said he paid Oscar De La Cruz for fake documents on several occasions.
While FBI agents searched the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Friday, the criminal complaint doesn’t include any explicit link to De La Cruz’s day job at County Court at Law #6.
The scheme described in the criminal complaint is relatively common in the Rio Grande Valley.
Depending on the purity, a kilogram of cocaine is worth roughly $23,000 to $27,000 in the Valley, according to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who testified in federal court during December.
Smugglers who want to steal cocaine from their suppliers — and sell the cocaine to someone else, potentially pocketing six figures — sometimes claim law enforcement seized the drugs.
To document the bogus drug busts, they provide the supplier with fake police reports, search warrants or court records.
It’s unclear how many fake documents De La Cruz is accused of providing to drug smugglers.
The informant said he dealt with De La Cruz through an intermediary, according to the criminal complaint. The informant would pay the intermediary, who passed the money to De La Cruz.
In exchange, De La Cruz provided “multiple false documents” to the intermediary, who passed them to the informant, according to the criminal complaint.
The criminal complaint doesn’t name the informant or the intermediary, identifying them only as “Confidential Source 1” and “Confidential Source 2.”
De La Cruz is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
The judge scheduled a preliminary examination and detention hearing for Tuesday afternoon.