Interfere with federal drug crime investigations and you may become the subject of an investigation yourself.
At least, that’s what happened to one paralegal specialist working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio recently.
After allegedly tipping off members of Cartel del Noreste, investigators turned their attention to her. She has since been indicted for multiple federal drug crimes.
So how does a paralegal go from one side of the law to the other? Let’s take a closer look at how this happened…
San Antonio Paralegal Accused of Tipping Off Mexican Cartel
The brother-in-law of the San Antonio paralegal is allegedly an associate of one of the cartel’s leaders. Although the leader was deported in 2018, he was still suspected of operating out of San Antonio — with help.
Besides the paralegal herself, her sister and her brother-in-law were also suspected of being involved with the drug cartel. Her official criminal charges include:
- Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing meth
- Obstruction of justice
- Conspiracy to obstruct justice
Court documents explain that the paralegal smuggled drug money across the U.S.-Mexican border more thanr 20 times last year.
She also allegedly brought documents containing investigation information to cartel members, allowing them to get rid of drugs or throw off the investigation before authorities arrived.
In May 2020, authorities arrested the paralegal and charged her with the previously mentioned federal crimes.
Think You’re Getting Away? You May Just Be Under Investigation
This story is a cautionary tale. The paralegal began working in her position in March 2017. Investigators believe that she had been committing criminal acts since May of 2019.
So if they had suspicions she was engaging in criminal activity in May 2019, why did it take a year to bring charges in May 2020?
In a word — investigation.
What Kind of Evidence Investigators Needed
All federal investigations, and especially ones involving federal drug crimes, aren’t a rushed process. Prosecutors need solid evidence to move forward with their accusations.
Hard evidence often includes:
- Witness testimony
- Surveillance footage
- Other records and evidence
What Investigators Found on the San Antonio Paralegal
It wasn’t enough for investigators to hear that someone within the U.S. Attorney’s Office was providing information to the cartel. They needed to gather evidence of the paralegal’s car crossing from the United States to Mexico.
Investigators also found documents that the paralegal printed at the office with classified information regarding their investigations. They also needed proof that these documents were used to commit a crime – something that takes gathering witness interviews and testimony.
Why Federal Investigations Can Take So Long
For the record, it isn’t easy to get members within a criminal organization to cooperate, much less swear to testify against someone working for law enforcement.
A person can only be indicted for a serious crime after prosecutors can present physical evidence or sworn witness testimony connecting the accused to the crime.
Investigations can last months (sometimes years), during which time an offender may still continue committing crimes. If crimes are being committed under the eyes of investigators, it still may take time to indict. All the while, the offender may think they’re getting away with criminal activity.
Federal Time for Federal Drug Crimes
No one wants to get caught committing a crime — especially if that crime involves federal drug trafficking and obstruction of justice. The paralegal in this story faces significant jail time for working with the cartel.
Just for the federal drug charge alone, a conviction could mean this paralegal spends 10 years in federal prison. If prosecutors can connect her charge of possession with intent to distribute to a death or serious bodily injury, her jail time can double.
If the offender is found not guilty of drug crimes but still convicted of obstruction of justice, say, there’s still a chance she spends five years in jail.