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Witness says former La Joya police chief allowed criminal to borrow his badge

Former La Joya police Chief Geovani Hernandez didn’t just betray the badge, he allowed a shady businessman with Gulf Cartel connections to borrow it.

In July 2017, when he worked for the Progreso Police Department, Hernandez allowed Hector Obed Saucedo-Rodriguez, an informant for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to borrow his badge.

20181219 GeovaniHernandezHernandez apparently wanted to curry favor with Saucedo-Rodriguez, a shady businessman with Gulf Cartel connections. They had just finished providing security for a cocaine shipment.

“He offered me a T-shirt showing ‘drug police.’ To show that I had done my job and that I had been with him,” Saucedo-Rodriguez said Tuesday, when he testified on the second day of Hernandez’s trial. “But I didn’t want to accept it and I told him ‘No.’”

Saucedo-Rodriguez said the T-shirt would just attract unwanted attention.

“But he gave me, instead, his police officer badge,” Saucedo-Rodriguez said.

Prosecutors showed jurors a photo of the badge in question — Progreso Police Department badge #204, marked with the word “sergeant” — on Tuesday morning.

Geovani V. Hernandez, 44, of McAllen is accused of providing security for drug traffickers during a sting planned by Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As part of the sting, Saucedo-Rodriguez said he cultivated a relationship with Hernandez. They drank together and discussed various business ventures.

Saucedo-Rodriguez eventually asked Hernandez to provide security for cocaine shipments.

While federal agents watched, they prowled Progreso, attempting to “clean” the streets of cops. Throughout the sting, Hernandez and Saucedo-Rodriguez communicated with a driver attempting to transport cocaine from Progreso to Pharr.

Agents arrested Hernandez in August 2017. If convicted, he faces 10 years to life in federal prison.

Hernandez spent two decades in Rio Grande Valley law enforcement, working for eight police departments, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. He also challenged Sheriff Lupe Treviño in the March 2012 Democratic Party primary and briefly served as La Joya police chief.

David Acosta, an attorney who represents Hernandez, spent hours questioning Saucedo-Rodriguez on Tuesday.

Saucedo-Rodriguez admitted stealing money during the sting operation, snorting cocaine before a meeting with Hernandez and lying to federal agents. All that information, however, had already been addressed by prosecutors.

Poorly worded questions and persistent computer problems muddled several points Acosta attempted to make. He repeatedly asked whether or not Hernandez presented Saucedo-Rodriguez with some kind of contract on July 11, 2017, the day they provided security for a cocaine shipment.

After prodding from Acosta, who asked the question several times, Saucedo-Rodriguez said he remembered Hernandez talking about a contract.

Saucedo-Rodriguez, though, said he never signed the contract. Despite what Hernandez said, they weren’t conducting any kind of business deal that day.

Acosta played surveillance video, which showed Saucedo-Rodriguez accepting documents from Hernandez.

The video took an excruciatingly long time to start playing. Jurors waited in silence for Acosta to address the technical problems, which slowed the proceedings to a standstill.

Acosta had similar problems with audio recordings.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane addressed the technical problems Tuesday afternoon, moments after excusing the jury.

“It took you 20 minutes to play a few seconds of something that he had admitted to,” Crane said, referring to Saucedo-Rodriguez.

The trial is running significantly behind schedule, Crane said, adding that he planned to keep the jury later than normal on Wednesday.

“We need to move things along,” Crane said.

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