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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie

    DEA arrests El Paso County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr.on drug trafficking charge

    Updated: DEA arrests County
    Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. on drug trafficking charges

    By Daniel Borunda / El Paso
    Posted: 02/23/2012 01:06:35 AM MST

    El Paso County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. was arrested late Wednesday on federal drug-trafficking charges, officials said.

    Gandara Jr., 37, who was elected to the Commissioners Court in 2008 and is a candidate for state representative, was arrested as part of a multi-agency investigation.

    A spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed that Gandara was arrested but declined to disclose any details, including where he was taken into custody.

    "DEA, ICE, IRS with the assistance of the FBI along with our local partners are conducting an ongoing operation, and we cannot release further details at this time," said DEA spokes woman Diana Apodaca.

    The arrest was a surprise to County Judge Veronica Escobar, who works with Gandara Jr. on the Commissioners Court.

    "It makes me very sad for his children. Obviously, he is innocent until
    proven guilty and he will have an opportunity to plead his case," Escobar said.

    "I want to assure the public this has nothing to do with the county of El Paso and county government. We've had some very difficult blows lately. I hope the public understands this does not have anything to do with our organization."

    Gandara is the owner of Socorro Iron and Metal. He has a bachelor's in
    sociology from McMurry University and a master's in public administration from Sul Ross State.

    In September, he said in a statement that drug legalization was a bad idea for the country in a story in the El Paso Times.
    "Legalizing drugs is the coward practice of combating cartels, it is an insult to our men and women in law enforcement, and the laziest form of parenting our children and youth about the effects of drugs," Gandara said.

    Gandara said that he could not back former city Rep. Beto O'Rourke in his bid for Congress because O'Rourke had advocated the legalization of marijuana as a way of taking money from Mexican drug cartels.

    "As a parent, it is common sense for me to support Congressman (Silvestre) Reyes who is against the legalization of drugs. Unfortunately, on (sic) this upcoming primary election we will have many wolves in sheep's clothing running for office who are seeking election with an ulterior agenda to legalize drugs."

    Gandara announced in early December that he was running for the Texas House District 75 seat.

    He said he had been considering this run before state Rep. Inocente "Chente" Quintanilla, D-El Paso, announced that he was going to vacate the seat to challenge Gandara Jr. on the Commissioners Court.

    Gandara is part of a politically active family in Socorro. His father, Willie
    Gandara Sr., was mayor of Socorro and he was charged in the FBI's public corruption investigation in 2010.

    The elder Gandara and 10 others were named in a 27-page indictment charging them with seven various counts of racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud.

    In May 2011, the elder Gandara was recalled as mayor of Socorro after his indictment. The indictment alleges that Gandara Sr. participated in a bribery scheme while he was a member of the board of the Socorro Independent School District. He was the first elected official to be recalled in county history.

    In December 2011, Gandara Jr. said his family was dealing with the issue privately but he supports his father and believes he is innocent.

    "Although my name is Guillermo Gandara Jr. and I love who I am, my
    constituents understand and know the difference," Gandara Jr. said.

    Gandara Jr. touts as one of his biggest achievements the Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry, for which ground was broken in June. When completed, it will be the biggest port on the U.S.-Mexico border. Critics claimed Gandara Jr. inaccurately claimed a central role in the project. A feasibility study and initial funding were done before Gandara Jr. assumed office.

    But Gandara Jr. said more than $90 million in federal money for the project was in danger when he took office because of a lack of progress. Thanks to his efforts -- and the work of many county employees -- the project got back on track, Gandara Jr. said.

    Political observers have said that politics in the Lower Valley often rests
    on personal relationships between voters and elected officials -- relationships Gandara Jr. and his family had spent years cementing.
    The Socorro area is across the border from communities in the Valley of
    Juárez, an area that is a drug-smuggling hotbed that has been in dispute in recent years by narco-traffickers working for rival cartels.

    El Paso Times
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  2. #2
    Senior Member HAPPY2BME's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    the arrest was a surprise to county judge veronica escobar, who works with gandara jr. On the commissioners court.

    "it makes me very sad for his children. Obviously, he is innocent until
    proven guilty and he will have an opportunity to plead his case," escobar said.

    Translation: "I'm sweating bullets hoping he doesn't mention my name in court."
    Join our FIGHT AGAINST illegal immigration & to secure US borders by joining our E-mail Alerts at

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