One of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels may have had some inside help in North Texas for several years from a Collin County deputy constable, according to police documents.
Robert Benavidez, whose career as a North Texas peace officer dates back almost a dozen years, was arrested July 8 on six counts of abuse of official capacity. He is accused of helping his cousin, Sergio Maldonado, who was believed to have been the North Texas "cell leader" for the Zetas, the ruthless enforcement arm of Mexico's Gulf Cartel drug smuggling operation.
Mr. Maldonado was among 30 people arrested last year during a massive federal drug sweep known as Operation Puma. Mr. Maldonado pleaded guilty earlier this year to drug trafficking and money laundering-related charges.
Beginning in 2004, while working as a deputy constable, Mr. Benavidez would periodically check law enforcement databases to determine whether Mr. Maldonado or his wife had any outstanding arrest warrants, according to arrest affidavits. Mr. Benavidez would also check the registration and ownership of suspected law enforcement surveillance vehicles, according to the arrest documents. In return, Mr. Benavidez was given several grams of cocaine, Mr. Maldonado told federal agents.
That's a pretty wild story. Most cartel-related police corruption on the US side historically occurred along the Mexican border; Collin County, by contrast, is just one county away from the Oklahoma state line.
For several years now this blog has maintained that border security and anti-drug funds aimed at international trafficking should go first to identify and prosecute police corruption before paying for hardware and training. This story shows that strategy is needed statewide, not just in counties along the Rio Grande.