Second Starr County Deputy Arrested in Bribery and Extortion Conspiracy
WASHINGTON—A Deputy Sherriff for the Starr County, Texas Sherriff’s Office has been ordered detained by a federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Texas on charges of conspiracy, federal programs bribery, extortion, and drug possession with intent to distribute, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Nazario Solis, III, 34, of Rio Grande City, Texas, was ordered detained yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos in McAllen, Texas. Solis was arrested on July 12, 2012, on charges contained in an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas.
The indictment charges Solis with one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and extortion, one count of federal programs bribery, one count of extortion, one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and one count of attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. The indictment also charges Jason Michael Munsell, a deputy sheriff with the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and extortion, one count of federal programs bribery, and one count of extortion. Munsell, 26, surrendered to the FBI in McAllen on July 17, 2012, and was released on bond the following day.
According to the indictment, from approximately March 2011 to approximately April 2011, Solis and Munsell accepted approximately $1,500 total in cash payments from the operator of a gambling business in Starr County in exchange for providing warning of law enforcement activity involving the gambling business. The indictment further alleges that Solis and Munsell were recorded confirming that they had provided such notice about a law enforcement raid on at least one occasion in March 2011, allowing the business to remove money and employees that might otherwise have been arrested.
Solis is also charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana in approximately April 2011.
The indictment also charges Solis with attempting to distribute three kilograms of cocaine and cash in exchange for semi-automatic and fully-automatic firearms. The indictment alleges that Solis engaged in extensive negotiations with another individual to obtain the firearms, which Solis intended to send to his “boss” in Mexico. However, the individual with whom Solis engaged in negotiations was an undercover law enforcement agent, and no actual firearms were sent to Solis. The indictment alleges that Solis was recorded stating, “My boss likes the 308 [rifle]...he likes the M-4s [rifle] and the 223 [rifle].” The indictment further alleges that Solis preferred semi-automatic rifles, complaining that fully-automatic rifles used “too much ammo.” Solis allegedly stated, “We kill one bird, and we shoot seven times. That’s not, that’s not very good mathematics.”
Solis faces a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and supervised release for each conspiracy charge; 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and supervised release for each charge of extortion and federal programs bribery; five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and supervised release for the marijuana distribution charge; and five to 40 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and supervised release for the attempted cocaine distribution charge.
Munsell faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for the conspiracy charge and 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and supervised release for each charge of extortion and federal programs bribery.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Peter Mason and Anthony J. Phillips of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force in McAllen, which is composed of U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Internal Affairs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Homeland Security-Office of Inspector General, and the Texas Rangers. The Drug Enforcement Administration-Houston Division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives also participated in the investigation.