HOUSTON – A 39-year-old former Border Patrol (BP) agent has been ordered to prison following his conviction on multiple drug trafficking charges and threatening a federal agent with bodily harm, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
A federal jury in Houston returned guilty verdicts July 22, 2019, against Daniel Polanco, Edinburg, on cocaine charges and making a false statement. He was again found guilty March 6 after a second trial for threatening a federal agent.
Today, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison imposed a total 166-month sentence to be followed by five years of supervised release for all convictions. At the hearing, the court found Polanco played an integral role in the drug trafficking conspiracy, abused and exploited his position of trust as a law enforcement officer in order to facilitate the offenses and obstructed justice by providing false statements to federal agents during the course of the investigation.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Ellison also found Polanco made a credible threat of bodily harm against one the agents investigating the drug trafficking conspiracy. The court noted that as a former federal agent himself, Polanco knew the consequences of making such a threat and had the ability to carry it out. For that reason, Judge Ellison imposed a separate six months on that charge to be served consecutively to the 160 months he received for the drug trafficking charges. As a condition of supervised release, Judge Ellison ordered Polanco not to have any contact, directly or through a third party, with the federal agent he threatened.
Polanco was a former BP agent, but is no longer with the federal government.
“Every day, dedicated law enforcement officers across the nation risk their lives to make our communities safe. The criminal actions of Daniel Polanco, for which he was justly sentenced, demean that dedication and sacrifice,” stated Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “DEA will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to target all narcotics traffickers, especially those who abuse their office and the trust of the American Public.”
The investigation began in 2011 when authorities targeted a drug trafficking organization involved in the transportation and distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Authorities soon found the organization was also stealing loads of cocaine and marijuana from sources of supply. As part of the scheme, the organization had created fake bundles of drugs and used law enforcement officers to seize them in order to cover up the theft.
At trial, the jury heard Polanco helped facilitate the distribution of more than 15 kilograms of cocaine in April 2013. He and others were hired to transport the cocaine but stole it instead and sold the cocaine for profit. To cover up the theft, co-conspirators created fake drug bundles that were placed in an abandoned vehicle. Polanco assisted in the planning and staging of that incident and devised a plan to ensure law enforcement seized the sham bundles. He personally called authorities to report the abandoned vehicle and falsely reported the vehicle as looking suspicious.
Testimony revealed the drug trafficking organization paid Polanco for his participation in the scheme to seize the fake drugs. The jury also heard he made a false statement to an agent who was investigating the 15-kilogram cocaine seizure in an attempt to cover up his involvement in the transaction.
Polanco testified at trial and denied participating in the scheme. The jury did not believe his claims and convicted him of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and knowingly giving a false statement to a federal agent.
Following that verdict and losing a legal motion, Polanco threatened one of the federal agents involved in the case. He was charged and later convicted of threatening to commit bodily harm with the intent to intimidate, interfere or impede the agent while he was engaged in the performance of his official duties and/or to retaliate against him for performance of his official duties.
The drug trafficking investigation has led to the arrest and prosecution of 20 individuals including six law enforcement officers, one of whom has already received a 10-year prison term.
Polanco has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations