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Judge sentences former McAllen police investigator to probation for lying to federal agents

A judge sentenced a former McAllen police investigator to probation Tuesday for making a false statement to federal agents.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced former McAllen police Inv. Ricardo Ruiz Jr., 42, of Mission to six months probation.

RICARDO RUIZ“I accept full responsibility,” Ruiz said, adding that he wouldn’t make a similar mistake again.

Ruiz pleaded guilty to making a materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement during an interview with the Office of Inspector General. Federal agents accused Ruiz of lying about whether or not he participated in a scheme to steal a car.

Many details about what, exactly, Ruiz did — and why the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas decided to prosecute him — remain a mystery.

Accompanied by his attorney, Robert L. Steindel of Mission, Ruiz said little and spent just a few minutes in court Tuesday morning.

Asked about the sentence, the U.S. Attorney’s Office released a statement.

“We will let the record speak for itself,” said Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “and we always respect the decision of the court.”

Ruiz graduated from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in May 1995, according to personnel records. He worked at H-E-B while attending the University of Texas-Pan American.

Following a seven-year stint with H-E-B, where he became a checkout operations manager, Ruiz switched careers and joined the McAllen Police Department in May 2005.

Ruiz became a member of the Special Investigations Unit, which targets drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime. He received several commendations from police Chief Victor Rodriguez, who lauded Ruiz for his bravery, hard work and leadership.

Ruiz also made several major drug busts.

“It is most notable that on February 21, 2011, you lead an investigation that resulted in record marihuana and weapons seizures,” according to a commendation from July 2011. “This is a significant departmental accomplishment, in part, due to your leadership in drug law enforcement.”

McAllen assigned Ruiz to a regional U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force in April 2014. Ruiz returned to the police department in April 2017.

Rumors circulated that something went wrong. Documents released under the Texas Public Information Act, though, don’t include any mention of the assignment or indicate why Ruiz returned three years later.

The incident that resulted in Ruiz’s indictment happened just 10 days after he returned from the task force.

A man named Ruben Torres-Garcia called Juan Alberto Gonzalez-Valdez, a tow truck driver who worked for a company called Hnos. Rodriguez Guros, on April 27, 2017.

Torres-Garcia said someone had a 2013 Cadillac ATS that belonged to him. Gonzalez-Valdez contacted a man named Jesus Fabian Munoz, who contacted Ruiz.

On May 5, the tow truck driver and Ruiz went to San Juan, according to the indictment. Ruiz arrived wearing a badge and a gun.

Ruiz told the owner they needed to tow the Cadillac as part of a law enforcement investigation. Later that day, Ruiz and Munoz received $1,100.

When the San Juan Police Department recovered the Cadillac, federal agents started investigating what happened.

Ruiz denied participating in the seizure during an interview on July 26, according to the indictment. He resigned the next day.

“Thank you for the opportunity to work for the McAllen Police Department,” Ruiz wrote in his resignation memo. “I am just tired of all the stress being brought on for the work that we do.”

Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Torres-Garcia and Gonzalez-Valdez.

Munoz pleaded guilty to making a false statement. He’s scheduled for sentencing May 29.

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