McALLEN — The federal government paid informant Reynol Chapa-Garcia more than $360,000 during a 10-year span — but he testified Monday it wasn’t enough to stop him from engaging in other drug trafficking activity.
During the fourth day of testimony in the trial of former Mission police officer and DEA task force officer Hector “Jojo” Mendez, Chapa testified that despite his arrangement to be an informant for the government, which prohibited him from being involved in any illegal activity not approved by the DEA, he continued to engage in drug trafficking activity, some of which involved helping Mendez and large amounts of cash and drugs.
Chapa, who began working along with the government some time in 2004 until about 2014 when he was arrested in connection with a drug conspiracy to rip off another drug trafficker, testified the government paid him more than $360,000 beginning in 2004.
The 37-year-old convicted drug trafficker said not only was he being paid almost monthly from the DEA but that he also worked with Mendez, storing marijuana and cash at his home in exchange for cash payments.
Mendez’s attorney, Carlos A. Garcia, during cross-examination of Chapa, pushed the Mission resident about how his story has changed multiple times since his arrest in mid-2015.
Chapa admitted that he had given different versions to government officials in order to cover up the dealings he had with Mendez.
In one instance, in relation to the seizure of 15 kilos of cocaine from a Ford Taurus on July 28, 2012, in Mission, he told the feds that Salvador Gonzalez, a known drug trafficker he and Mendez allegedly worked together to rip off, was the one responsible for purchasing the beat up Taurus where Mission police found the cocaine.
But according to his own testimony last Friday, Chapa testified that he and Mendez planned to steal the 15 kilos of cocaine Gonzalez had intended to be moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, cut it, and then stage a seizure and provide documentation of said seizure so that Gonzalez and the drug organization back in Mexico would not suspect the theft.
Asked if he had any proof, other than his sworn testimony, that Mendez picked up the cocaine from his home and then cut it in an attempt to resell it for a profit, Chapa answered that he did not.
Chapa testified that he turned over to Mendez the surveillance footage from outside his home the morning Mendez picked up the cocaine that was later cut and seized during a bust just three days later.
He also said footage from the day after the seizure at his home when members affiliated with a Mexican cartel visited him along with Gonzalez, demanded payment or the cocaine, was also turned over to Mendez.
He ultimately agreed to testify as the government’s witness in exchange for a possible reduction in his punishment, but only if he told the truth in connection with the events in 2012.
Garcia continued to pick apart Chapa, the government’s star witness and the only one to testify to Mendez’s involvement in the drug theft and subsequent staged bust.
The attorney also focused on another witness who testified Monday, Ramon Arredondo, a close friend of Chapa.
Arredondo, who was also convicted of drug trafficking, testified to two different occasions where he witnessed Chapa hand over bundles of cash to Mendez outside of his home in 2014.
The Edinburg native, who named Chapa his son’s godfather and would frequent his home in Mission almost daily, said Mendez stopped by in a black Chevrolet Tahoe and collected cash from Chapa.
He said he agreed to testify not because he wanted to aide his friend Chapa, but in an effort to possibly have his probation reduced on an unrelated theft charge from 2014.
Rounding out the day’s testimony was Richard Champion, who worked at the DEA office in McAllen as the group supervisor between December 2007 and June 2014.
Champion testified he was in charge of the High Intensity Drug Task Area task force during the time Mendez worked as a DEA task force officer, and testified about his duties as the group’s supervisor before the court recessed for the afternoon.
Champion is expected to remain on the stand as the trial heads into day five of testimony.
If convicted of the federal drug charges, Mendez faces up to life in prison.