|Sheriff’s investigators Heriberto Diaz, left, and Omar Salazar screwed up big time when they decided to steal 354 pounds of marijuana from a house in Mission, Texas.|
A former sheriff’s investigator testified against his former partner Monday afternoon, recounting how they agreed to steal 354 pounds of marijuana from a home in Mission, Texas.
Former investigator Omar Salazar of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office described meeting with his partner and fellow investigator Heriberto Diaz on October 15, 2009, outside a convenience store in Palmview, reports Dave Hendricks at the McAllen Monitor. There, Diaz told Salazar about a tip he’d received about marijuana stashed at a Mission home.
“He asked me if we could steal it, or if we should report it,” Salazar said. “And if I had somebody who could pick it up.”
Of course, to hear Salazar tell it, Diaz was the brains behind the botched theft, which cost both men their careers and led to federal indictments. Diaz’s Edinburg-based attorney, Santos Maldonado, disputed that version of events, and said Salazar — who arranged for a confidential informant to pick up the bundles of marijuana — was the mastermind behind the plan.
“My client said, ‘You must be joking. You must be crazy. Let’s go do our job,’ ” Maldonado claimed.
In any event, both investigators drove unmarked Ford F-150 pickups to a home on Ottumwa Street.
They didn’t tell the Mission Police Department, which would have been a common courtesy among law enforcement officers when working within another agency’s jurisdiction. They also didn’t try to get a superior officer’s permission before searching the home.
As investigators, both Salazar and Diaz wore street clothes. Uniformed deputies are, by policy, supposed to accompany plainclothes officers when they search homes, to reassure residents that they’re dealing with actual law enforcement officers.
Mission police officers noticed the two men carrying bundles of marijuana from the home, at which point they found both investigators present. They became suspicious, sparking an investigation that led to state and federal charges against both men.
Salazar pleaded guilty June 9 and faces five to 40 years in prison. A federal judge will have discretion to give him leniency in exchange for his testimony.