- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A former Texas state trooper and sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty to money laundering Monday, two years after a traffic stop revealed more than $1 million in the trunk of his car.

Robert “Bobby” Maldonado, who was running for constable in Hidalgo County at the time of his February 2012 arrest in Victoria County, spent about 12 years working as a courier bringing drug proceeds back to the Texas-Mexico border from the U.S. interior, according to prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Sturgis said Monday that Maldonado, 49, would buy one-way flights to cities including Detroit, Chicago and Birmingham, Alabama, rent cars and drive the money back. He generally received about 3 percent of the money he carried as payment and invested it in properties and other assets disguised under other names, Sturgis said.

The period during which Maldonado did this came after his 1995 firing by the Texas Department of Public Safety, but did overlap with the several years he spent at the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. A sheriff he worked for, Lupe Trevino, has since resigned and pleaded guilty to money laundering in his own case.

The extent to which Maldonado used specific skills acquired in law enforcement to evade detection could lead to an enhanced sentence, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane warned Monday. Maldonado’s plea comes a week before his trial was scheduled to begin.

He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced July 21. In exchange for his plea, a second money laundering count was dropped.

Federal agents had been watching Maldonado for some time, suspecting him of driving drug profits back to the border.

A state trooper found $1,068,930 in the trunk of Maldonado’s Chrysler 200 after a dog alerted to it.

Maldonado was making his second run for constable at the time of his arrest.

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