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Ex-Border Patrol agent gets nearly 14-year prison sentence over drug smuggling scheme

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

A former U.S. Border Patrol agent has been sentenced for his role in a drug smuggling conspiracy, records show.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison handed down a nearly 14-year federal prison sentence for the former agent, Daniel Polanco, which will be followed by five years of supervised release, a news release from the Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office.

Polanco, 39, of Edinburg, was found guilty by a federal jury last July related to his indictment on drug trafficking charges in a case that involved himself and multiple corrupt law enforcement who used their authority to facilitate the movement of illegal drugs dating back to 2011.

At the hearing Tuesday in Houston, the court found Polanco played a crucial role in the drug trafficking conspiracy, abused and exploited his position of trust as a law enforcement officer in order to facilitate the movement of cocaine, and obstructed justice by providing false statements to federal agents during the course of the investigation.

In addition to his conviction in July 2019, Polanco was also indicted and subsequently sentenced Tuesday for threatening a federal agent in October 2019.

That charge came as a result of an incident at the end of the hearing in October when Polanco, who was attempting to request a new trial after his July 2019 conviction, threatened a federal agent who was sitting in on the hearing.

After the hearing, Polanco was headed toward the exit when he turned to a U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agent, who had been present during the jury trial in July 2019, and made comments that the agent took as a threat.

The complaint read that Polanco walked toward the special agent, “who was sitting in the last row of the courtroom closest to the exit,” following U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellision concluding the hearing.

“When (Polanco) was feet away from (the special agent), he stopped, pointed at (the agent) and said: ‘This is gonna come back to you m—— — . You’ll see,'” the complaint further read. “(Polanco’s) tone was angry and menacing. (Polanco) then opened the exit door and walked out of the courtroom.”

The HSI agent, according to the complaint, felt “alarmed, concerned, and threatened,” by Polanco’s statement and gesture.

In handing down the sentence Tuesday, the court found Polanco made a credible threat of bodily harm against one of the agents investigating the drug trafficking conspiracy.

The court noted that as a former Border Patrol agent himself, Polanco knew the consequences of making such a threat to the agent and had the ability to carry it out.

Ellison imposed a separate six-month sentence on that charge to be served consecutively with the 160-month prison sentence he received for the drug trafficking charges.

The investigation began in 2011 when authorities targeted a drug trafficking organization involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Authorities soon found the organization was also stealing loads of cocaine and marijuana from sources of supply.

As part of the scheme, the organization had created fake bundles of drugs and used law enforcement officers to seize them in order to cover up the theft, the release states.

At trial, the jury heard Polanco helped move more than 15 kilos of cocaine in April 2013. He and others were hired to transport the cocaine but stole it instead and sold the cocaine for profit. To cover up the theft, Polanco and others created fake drug bundles that were placed in an abandoned vehicle.

Polanco assisted in the planning and staging of that fake seizure and devised a plan to ensure law enforcement seized the sham bundles. Polanco personally called authorities to report the abandoned vehicle and falsely reported the vehicle as looking suspicious.

Testimony revealed the drug trafficking organization paid Polanco for his role in the scheme to seize the fake drugs. The jury also heard he made a false statement to an agent who was investigating the 15-kilogram cocaine seizure in an attempt to cover up his involvement in the transaction, the release states.

Polanco testified at trial and denied participating in the scheme, but the jury did not believe his claims and convicted him of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and knowingly giving a false statement to a federal agent, in July 2019.

The drug trafficking investigation led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 individuals including six law enforcement officers, one of whom, Hector Beltran, a former Edinburg police officer, received a 10-year prison term in July, records show.

Polanco has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.


(c) 2020 The Monitor

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