Sunday, August 05, 2007

Deputy arrested, accused of extorting Mexican motorists

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A La Salle County sheriff's deputy has been accused of extorting Mexican motorists, threatening them with detention if they didn't pay him immediately.

Henry James Jr., 45, was arrested Tuesday on a complaint of extortion under the color of official right. He pleaded not guilty in federal court in Laredo on Wednesday. The case must be presented to a grand jury in the next 30 days.

A motorist stopped on Interstate 35 complained to the sheriff's office that James required him to pay a fine immediately or be detained.

Sheriff Victor Villarreal said in a statement that the department used its GPS technology to document several cases in which James stopped vehicles but didn't call dispatchers. Four motorists complained of being stopped and asked for fines of $120 to $300 from June 30 to July 22. They told authorities they paid James.

Two undercover FBI agents posing as Mexican motorists on July 25 and 28 were stopped by James for disregarding a stop sign on the access road of Interstate 35, according to the criminal complaint.

The agents recorded James telling them that because they were Mexican, they had to pay him $150 or be detained until a judge could see them.

James' arrest follows several other high-profile accusations against South Texas law enforcement officials.

Former La Salle County Sheriff Robbie Thomas and former deputy Joseph Canales were indicted in November on charges of aggravated perjury and tampering with evidence, respectively, for the handling of drugs in an evidence room.

And two veteran Laredo police officers were charged last month with accepting bribes from illegal gambling operations.

Source: The Monitor

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