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A former Donna school district police officer who confessed to working with drug traffickers will spend nearly 11 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced former Donna Independent School District police Officer Juan Fernando Mata on Tuesday morning.
Alvarez sentenced Mata to 130 months in prison followed by four years of supervised release.
Mata worked with members of “Los Mickys,” a rotating cast of criminals that targeted drug traffickers. They hijacked tractor-trailers, robbed stash houses and intercepted drug shipments.
Key members of Los Mickys included Marin Macrin “Filtro” Cerda and his brother, Miguel Marin “Tigre” Cerda, who originally worked for the Gulf Cartel. When the cartel splintered, Los Mickys became independent.
Along with targeting drug traffickers, they also terrorized innocent people.
In June 2017, members of Los Mickys held a McAllen family at gunpoint and demanded drugs, according to court records. They apparently had the wrong address.
Mata didn’t participate in any acts of violence, said attorney Heriberto Medrano of Harlingen, who represented him.
“But I gave into temptation to make a quick dollar by breaking the law,” Mata said.
Mata conducted fake traffic stops, which allowed Los Mickys to steal cocaine and marijuana from smugglers.
He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed a cocaine charge against him.
Mata spoke haltingly and sounded on the verge of tears when he addressed the judge, pleading for a second chance.
“A second chance is really not up to me to give you,” Alvarez said. “That is up to you.”
While the government didn’t charge Mata with committing acts of violence, he confessed to stealing drug shipments. He also socialized with drug traffickers.
“It shatters the expectation and trust that the community places in law enforcement,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto “Bobby” Lopez Jr., who prosecuted the case.
As part of his request for leniency, Mata solicited letters of support from members of the community, including Donna Mayor Rick Morales.
The letters didn’t impress Alvarez.
“For the city mayor to vouch for a convicted drug trafficker I do not think sits well for the city, quite frankly,” Alvarez said.
Asked about the letter, Morales said he didn’t know what Mata actually did.
“Obviously this young man did something that he shouldn’t have done and he’s going to have to face the consequences,” Morales said. “Whatever they may be.”
Mata betrayed the Rio Grande Valley and Donna residents, Alvarez said. The Valley — in particular the city of Donna and the Donna school district — already suffer from the perception that corruption is pervasive.
“It gives the entire area a bad name,” Alvarez said.
Mata also contributed to a culture of corruption that threatens the integrity of law enforcement officers everywhere, Alvarez said. Every corruption case brings the United States a little closer to Mexico, where law enforcement isn’t trustworthy.
“We cannot tolerate that here, Mr. Mata,” Alvarez said. “And we will not tolerate that here.”