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Fri Dec 14, 2012, 07:40 AM

Probe leads to prominent arrests in Hidalgo County

Federal prosecutors announced charges Thursday against four officers from a South Texas anti-drug task force who they say took thousands of dollars in bribes to guard large shipments of cocaine.

The officers — two from the Mission police department and two Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputies — were members of the “Panama Unit,” which is a joint task force between the two agencies that targets drug trafficking, according to prosecutors. Mission’s police chief said one of the officers was actually part of a different task force, but a prosecutor’s office official didn’t immediately respond to an after-hours seeking clarification.

The case sent especially large shockwaves through the local law enforcement community because two of the officers accused are the sons of top local law enforcement officials.

None of the officers has been arraigned, but Mission police officer Alexis Rigoberto Espinoza, 29, made an initial appearance in federal court Thursday on charges of twice possessing cocaine with intent to distribute. U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos set Espinoza’s bond at $100,000 and ordered him to remain under house arrest with electronic monitoring if he should make bond. She denied his request for a court-appointed attorney.

More at http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_e109cb2a-45a5-11e2-afd8-0019bb30f31a.html .

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