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A federal judge may send former Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Jose Padilla back to prison.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane ruled Wednesday that Padilla — who pleaded guilty to bribery in April 2014 and served a 38-month prison sentence — violated the conditions of his supervised release by stealing money and associating with a felon.
“I do intend to punish you for this crime,” Crane said.
Jose A. Padilla, 59, of Weslaco joined the Sheriff’s Office in June 1989, according to personnel records.
He served under Sheriff Brigido “Brig” Marmolejo Jr., Sheriff Henry Escalon and Sheriff Guadalupe “Lupe” Treviño, who promoted Padilla to commander in March 2006.
Padilla supervised the Special Services Bureau, which included the Hidalgo County Crime Stoppers program. He also became a key player in the scandal that sent Treviño to federal prison.
After the Panama Unit scandal, federal agents started investigating links between Treviño and Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez, a local drug trafficker.
Padilla confessed to accepting cash from Gonzalez, according to reports filed by the Texas Rangers. He kept some and delivered the remaining money to Treviño.
“PADILLA stated that through the years he may have kept approximately between $90,000.00 and $100,000.00 provided by GONZALEZ,” according to the Texas Rangers report.
Treviño pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Padilla pleaded guilty to bribery.
After he served a 38-month prison sentence, Padilla started working for Pharr-based Unimex Logistics.
Padilla developed a personal relationship with Milagros M. Gomez, 36, of Weslaco, who managed the company’s money. She frequently sent text messages to Padilla and socialized with him outside the office.
They charged thousands in personal expenses to a company credit card, according to Pharr Municipal Court records, which show purchases at Dillard’s, Discount Tire and H-E-B.
Investigators arrested Padilla on forgery and theft charges, which violated the terms of his supervised release.
Attorney Javier Peña of Edinburg, who represents Padilla, blamed Gomez for the situation.
Padilla occasionally paid company bills with his own money, Peña said. To pay him back, Gomez allowed Padilla to charge personal expenses on the company credit card.
“This is a horribly run company,” Peña said.
Crane responded with skepticism. He asked whether or not Padilla kept track of how much money Unimex owed him.
“Is there anything in writing anywhere?” Crane said.
Padilla provided Unimex with receipts but didn’t independently track how much money the company owed him, Peña said.
“Alright,” Crane said. “I’ll consider that, but I’m not persuaded.”
Padilla resigned from Unimex on Dec. 4, 2018, when the company started scrutinizing credit card transactions.
Peña insisted that Padilla didn’t do anything wrong and accused the company of sloppy accounting.
“His biggest fear is what’s happening today,” Peña said. “That it would affect his supervised release.”
At sentencing, Crane could modify the terms of Padilla’s supervised release or send him back to prison for a maximum of two years. The punishment may depend, in part, on how the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office handles the charges.
This article originally appeared in the Friday Oct. 4, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.