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Sheriff’s deputy resigns after $1 million seizure
January 13,2007
Michael Barnett and Jeremy Roebuck
Monitor Staff Writers

An Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy resigned Tuesday after Georgia authorities found nearly $1 million hidden in his car during a routine traffic stop last week.

Emmanuel Sanchez, 30, of Alton, has not been arrested but is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of the way the money was allegedly discovered and concealed.

Sanchez told Georgia State Patrol troopers he found the money behind a Hooters restaurant in Atlanta, said spokesman Trooper Larry Schnall. Some of the $950,000, which troopers seized, was discovered within the doors of Sanchez’s truck.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said Friday he has ordered an inquiry to determine if others in his department knew of or were involved in any wrongdoing in connection with the money found with Sanchez.

"I have not been told that anyone else in my department is involved in this," Treviño said.

Citing the confidentiality of personnel files, Treviño would not say if any complaints have previously been made against Sanchez, a patrol deputy who joined the department in 2001.

"We’re going to interview his close friends, if he has any," Treviño said. "We’ll look into prior rumors, if there’s any."

Sanchez could not be reached for comment Friday.

Georgia troopers discovered the money in Sanchez’s Ford F-350 after he was pulled over for an unspecified "moving violation" the night of Jan. 6, Schnall said. Sanchez was driving west on Interstate 20 between Temple and Villa Rica, Ga. — about 40 miles west of Atlanta.

"It was highly unusual for someone to have that much cash," Schnall said.

After being stopped, Sanchez identified himself as a sheriff’s deputy and agreed to let troopers search his truck.

During the search, authorities discovered a "stack of loose currency" inside a duffel bag in the truck’s back seat, Schnall said. Once the money had been discovered, Sanchez became confrontational and withdrew his consent for the search.

Troopers later called a K-9 unit to the scene, and the dog alerted them to suspicious material inside the car. Under Georgia law, authorities can conduct a search if a K-9 investigation indicates suspicious circumstances, Schnall said.

They issued a traffic warning to Sanchez and seized the money but let him go without arrest. Investigators are attempting to verify Sanchez's claims that he found the money in Atlanta, Schnall said. The former deputy could seek to have the cash returned through Georgia courts.

Luisa Deason, a Houston-based spokeswoman for ICE, said she was "not at liberty to discuss … an ongoing investigation."

Treviño, who has talked several times to federal and Georgia authorities, said he could not investigate Sanchez because there have been no allegations that he committed a crime in Hidalgo County. Sanchez, a patrol deputy, was not assigned to any special units.

"This guy was not arrested. There’s no criminal allegations against him," Treviño said. "So I’m in a pickle."

Sanchez did not give a reason for leaving and declined an exit interview when he resigned Tuesday, Treviño said. Had Sanchez not resigned, Treviño said he could have conducted an investigation into the former deputy’s conduct.

If an investigation found evidence of improper conduct, "I was going to fire him," Treviño said. "He just beat me to the punch."

Since Treviño took office in January 2005, at least five sheriff’s office employees have been under criminal investigation.

In August, detention officer Pedro Longoria was arrested and fired after a Louisiana state trooper allegedly found 66 pounds of cocaine in his vehicle’s gas tank.
 
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