McALLEN – Heriberto Diaz, 41, of San Juan, has been convicted by a jury's verdict of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The verdict was returned today after five hours of deliberation.
During the three-day trial, the jury heard testimony that Diaz met with his partner, Omar Salazar - also a Hidalgo County Sheriff's investigator, at a Stripes convenience store in Mission. At that time, Diaz informed Salazar that he had received a tip that marijuana was being stored at a nearby residence and they both subsequently traveled to the residence. After Diaz threatened the resident with arrest if she did not comply, Diaz and Salazar received the consent to search. Salazar discovered approximately 161 kilograms inside the residence.
Testimony at trial showed that Salazar contacted Joel Duncan to assist with the removal. While Duncan and his son, Jorge Duncan, were removing the marijuana, a Mission police officer observed Joel Duncan carrying large bundles. The Mission police officer approached the residence and was informed by Salazar that a suspect had fled the residence and asked the police officer to help locate the suspect.
At trial, Salazar admitted that he lied to the police officer in order to help the Duncans safely leave the area. Testimony at trial showed that the police officer did locate and take the Duncans into custody. However, at the request of investigator Salazar, the Duncans were released. Salazar further testified that Diaz had recruited him to assist with the theft of the marijuana and that Duncan had agreed to purchase the marijuana that was stolen.
Following the return of the verdict, Diaz was taken into custody pending his sentencing, which is set for Jan. 5, 2012. Salazar and Joel Duncan were also charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. They have pleaded guilty and are pending sentencing. All three face a minimum of five and up to 40 years in prison in addition to a $250,000 fine.
This matter was investigated by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI and the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department and was prosecuted by Assistant United states Attorney Robert Wells Jr.