April Norris, KGBT 4 (Harlingen, TX), June 10, 2005
The former Cameron County sheriff has been charged with leading a criminal enterprise while in office that was involved in extortion, drug trafficking and witness tampering, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
During his entire term of office prosecutors say Conrado Cantu was being paid by drug dealers to smuggle their narcotics into this country illegally.
On Thursday morning United States Attorney Michael Shelby unsealed a ten (10) count indictment accusing Cantu, 49, of extortion, drug trafficking, obstruction of state and local law enforcement efforts, witness tampering and bribery between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2004, Cantu’s term of office as sheriff.
Also indicted and charged were Rumaldo Rodriguez, Cantu’s former captain in the sheriffs department and Geronimo “Jerry” Garcia, a former operator of the Cameron County Jail Commissary.
The ten count indictment accuses Cantu of using his position as Sheriff to enrich himself and others members of the enterprise by receiving payments from known drug traffickers in exchange for releasing sensitive law enforcement information and using the powers of his office to protect and assist the drug traffickers in their criminal conduct.
Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa was always one of Cantu’s most ardent supporters during his four year term in office.
Just last week he agreed Cantu should be allowed to become a reserve deputy constable for the county — an issue county commissioners later tabled.