Border Patrol Agent Joel Luna has been dealt a 20-year prison sentence for organized criminal activity in a case involving the decapitation of a would-be snitch in 2015.
The Honduran victim, Franky Palacios, was shot in the head at a tire shop in Edinburg and dumped naked and headless in the waters off South Padre Island.
Luna faced a separate charge of capital murder for this slaying but was acquitted by the Cameron County jury. His younger brother, Eduardo, on the other hand, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life without parole.
An elder Luna brother, Fernando, testified that Palacios intended to turn the brothers in for drug trafficking, leading to the hit by Eduardo. In exchange for testifying against his brothers, Fernando received a reduced sentence of 10 years’ probation and was deported to Mexico.
Evidence implicating Agent Luna included 90 thousand dollars cash, a kilo of cocaine, a ledger of drug sales and a gold-plated gun engraved with the Spanish name of the Gulf Drug Cartel, all found in a safe purchased by Luna. He waived his right to appeal as part of his agreement for the 20-year verdict.
This case has drawn concerns of corruption within federal law enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Commenting on the implications for the U.S. Border Patrol, Assistant District Attorney Gustavo Garza, who prosecuted the case said, “Any time that you have a peace officer who has sworn to uphold the law and protect the public and then goes rogue — that is not a good experience for the organization.”