Prosecutors say U.S. Border Patrol agent helped a Mexican cartel to move illegal guns and ammo south of the border and illicit drugs north

DAVID WARREN, Associated Press DALLAS (AP) 10/08 — The discovery of a headless body floating near the Texas spring break haven of South Padre Island touched off an investigation that prosecutors say revealed a U.S. Border Patrol agent had helped a Mexican cartel to move illegal weapons and ammunition south of the border and illicit drugs to the north.

The prosecutor alleges that agent Joel Luna got pulled into the business to help his brothers, including one linked to a cartel, and that their operation unraveled when investigators found a “treasure trove” of evidence in a safe at Luna’s mother-in-law’s home. The material included passwords to Luna’s work computer, almost $90,000 in cash and a kilo of cocaine. The trail of evidence led to Luna being accused on a raft of charges, including capital murder in the death of a man seen as a possible snitch.

Luna’s attorney, Carlos A. Garcia, insists that the 31-year-old Iraq War veteran had no part in the scheme and that material in the safe connecting him to criminal activity may have been stolen by one of his brothers.

“This is a clear-cut case of guilt by association,” Garcia recently told The Associated Press.

Cameron County District Attorney Gustavo “Gus” Garza declined to elaborate on how or if Joel Luna’s status as a federal agent aided in the alleged drug-and-weapons operation. He noted the safe also contained Joel Luna’s commemorative Border Patrol badge.

“Drug use and abuse in America is fueling the Mexican cartels, and because of the money and the weapons that go south, we get all the violence,” Garza said. “This case represents that.”

Joel Luna patrolled a vast expanse of Texas ranchland near the Mexico border during his six years as a Border Patrol agent. Born in Texas, he grew up mostly in Mexico before returning to Texas to attend high school. He was a member of ROTC and later served an Army combat tour in Iraq. He served in the Army Reserves before joining the Border Patrol, Garcia said.

The case against Luna and his brothers, Eduardo and Fernando Luna, began in March 2015 when boaters found the headless, nude and bloated body of 33-year-old Jose Francisco Rodriguez Palacios Paz. The Honduran immigrant had worked at Fernando Luna’s tire shop in Edinburg, a South Texas town about 20 miles north of the border.

Investigators said phone records and texts revealed that Palacios Paz’s common-law wife expressed concern to Fernando Luna that he was going to reveal the drug operation. Prosecutors allege the Luna brothers conspired to kill Palacios Paz, and that he was killed at the tire shop.

Eduardo — who prosecutors say was a commander in the Gulf Cartel — and Fernando Luna were arrested in June 2015. Two other shop employees are also charged.

But it wasn’t until November that investigators found the safe that, according to Garza, also contained ammunition, a gun and a ledger noting the sale of drugs and weapons. Joel Luna was later arrested and suspended from his job as a Border Patrol agent. Investigators found more than 900 rounds of Russian-made ammunition in his locker, Garza said.

Prosecutors are pushing for Joel Luna to be tried as early as this month with Eduardo Luna, his 26-year-old younger brother. Both men have pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges.

Fernando Luna, their older brother, pleaded guilty in August to possession of a controlled substance and agreed to testify against his brothers in exchange for prosecutors dropping other charges, including murder. The 36-year-old faces up to three years in prison.

An attorney for Fernando Luna declined to comment when contacted by the AP. A lawyer for Eduardo Luna didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Garcia said there have been conversations with prosecutors about a plea deal for Joel Luna, but that none was seriously considered because the Army veteran has done nothing wrong. Garcia said a judge declined his request to try Joel Luna separately from his brother.

“We’re confident in the facts,” the defense attorney said. “He had absolutely nothing to do with this man’s death. He was not involved in drug-running, had nothing to do with the trafficking of weapons.”

http://www.bigstory.ap.org/article/6e87a2b7a1b6456bb89026ec24aa8c74/border-patrol-agent-cartel-linked-brother-facing-drug-trial

Posted in: Border Patrol, Crime & Criminals, Drugs/Drug Trafficking, Gangs, International Policing, Official Corruption

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 − three =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.