Grand jury indicts defendants allegedly involved in bringing drugs into local state prison unit

BEEVILLE – Bee County grand jurors returned indictments on a number of correctional officers and state prisoners offenders when they met last month.

Those named in four of the indictments were Efrain Guerra Espinoza, Edgar Castillo, Robert Burger and Vincent Martinez.

Each defendant was charged with taking part in an alleged scheme to smuggle between four and 400 grams of a synthetic marijuana into one of the three Texas Department of Criminal Justice units in Bee County on Oct. 29, 2017.

According to the indictments, the three defendants are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a first degree felony, delivery of a controlled substance, penalty group 2A, four to 400 grams, a first degree felony, and bribery, a second degree felony.

Prosecutors alleged that Espinoza possessed the drug with intent to deliver into one of the units here on Oct. 29, 2017.

To be considered organized criminal activity, the offense had to involve three or more individuals with the intent to participate in the profits of a transaction.

The bribery charge was based on evidence that the defendant accepted a benefit other than a political contribution (currency) while he was working as a correctional officer.

The organized criminal activity makes it possible for prosecutors to enhance other felony charges to their next highest level.

First degree felonies are punishable, upon conviction, by a prison sentence from five to 99 years or life in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000.

Second degree felonies can result in a prison sentence up to 20 years and a fine of as much as $10,000.

The indictment against Castillo included the same three charges but specified that the defendant had agreed to “confer a benefit, U.S. currency, to Espinoza in exchange for the officer violating his duty not to take drugs onto correctional facility property.”

Burger was indicted on the same charges, but grand jurors approved an enhancement clause because he had a previous felony conviction on a charge of felony possession of marijuana on March 6, 2009, in Denton County.

Martinez’s indictment included the same charges. He was identified as a TDJC inmate, and his indictment included an accusation that he intended to confer U.S. currency to Castillo.

His indictment also included an enhancement clause and cited a previous felony conviction on a charge of murder in Bexar County on June 24, 2002.

District Judge Joel Johnson set bonds at $25,000 for each of the defendants.

Another prison-related indictment named John C. Gonzales as the defendant.

Gonzales’ two-count indictment included charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, a state jail felony, and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.

If convicted of the state jail felony, the defendant faces up to two years in a state jail facility and a possible $10,000 fine.

A conviction on the Class A misdemeanor could result in a jail sentence of up to a year and a fine of $4,000. His bond was $20,000.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.