This article originally appeared in the Friday July 26, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.
After eight years in federal prison, former Sullivan City police Chief Hernan Guerra is a free man.
The U.S. Bureau of Prisons released Hernan Guerra Jr., 53, of Mission from a federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, on July 2.
“You seemed to scoff, really, at getting caught. You didn’t care, you were going to do it anyway,” U.S. District Judge Randy Crane said on April 20, 2011, according to the transcript, when he sentenced Guerra to 10 years in prison. “I remember being appalled listening to some of the things you were saying on wiretaps.”
Attempts to contact Guerra through his wife, a friend and his former attorney were unsuccessful.
Guerra worked with Jose Merced “Chacho” Arechiga and his brother, Jose Raul “Pili” Arechiga, who supervised a sophisticated drug trafficking organization based in Sullivan City. They smuggled marijuana across the Rio Grande for Gulf Cartel plaza boss Gumercindo “El Aguila” Gamez-Villarreal, who controlled Diaz Ordaz and ranchland south of Starr County.
Guerra protected the marijuana shipments by keeping local police away from smugglers. He also provided the Arechigas with information about nearby Border Patrol agents.
“Jose Arechiga, the head of the drug-trafficking operation, paid Guerra between $500 to $1,000, once or twice per month, for his participation,” according to federal court records. “Guerra’s participation also included failing to investigate known drug trafficking, and rigging the city’s automobile auction so that Arechiga would obtain the winning bid on automobiles.”
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration started investigating “El Aguila” in 2009. Agents requested permission to monitor communication between key players, including Guerra and the Arechigas.
Armed with the wiretaps, prosecutors built an airtight case against Guerra. He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.
“I’m sorry for what I did, what I did to the community and to my family,” Guerra said at sentencing, according to the transcript.
The case shocked Sullivan City, where Guerra had started as a patrolman in November 2001.
“I couldn’t believe it,” former Sullivan City police Chief Carlos Lucio, who worked under Guerra, said in a September 2015 interview. “When he was arrested, I was so embarrassed.”
Guerra served his sentence at the Maxwell Air Force Base federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama. The minimum security camp, which holds about 730 inmates, is located between a golf course and a river.
He accepted a job in the prison food service department, apparently as a baker’s apprentice.
Guerra became a model prisoner, studying personal finance, bookkeeping and accounting, according to Bureau of Prisons records. He also took nutrition and fitness classes.
In 2016, when he requested a sentence reduction, Guerra had no disciplinary history, according to federal court records. The request wasn’t granted. As a result of good conduct, however, the Bureau of Prisons released him in July.
Guerra will spend four years on supervised release.