Just days before the election that could keep him in office for a third term the top law enforcement official in El Paso County, Texas attended a fundraising event at the home of a convicted felon with connections to the illegal drug trade.
Outraged officers in the agency that patrols over 1,000 square miles with a population of about 800,000 are asking commissioners to investigate the matter, which they claim will destroy public respect and confidence in their agency.
It’s not the first time that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCSO) elected leader, Richard Wiles, is involved in a scandal. A few years ago one of Wiles’ deputy chiefs, Jesus “Eddie” Campa, got criminally indicted for embezzling millions of dollars in Homeland Security funds.
Campa served in the department as a jailer and officer for two decades, according to public records. He left the agency in 2014 following the indictment allegations, supposedly for embezzling $5.6 million in Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) funds, sources told Judicial Watch.
After an unusually short stint as police chief for the Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Campa landed a spot as police chief in Marshall, a town of about 24,000 residents in northeast Texas.
As Wiles’ chief deputy at EPCSO Campa was arrested by the FBI and taken to a holding cell at the El Paso FBI office located at 660 Mesa Hills Drive along with another deputy, Randolph Tabbutt, who has also left EPCSO.
There appears to be no public record of Campa’s indictment and a spokesman, Daryl Fields, at the United States Attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas told Judicial Watch that he “can neither confirm nor deny” that Campa was indicted. This response from federal prosecutors seems rather odd, as if there’s a concerted effort to cover up information related to the case.
As if it weren’t bad enough that this occurred under Wiles’ command, a few weeks before the November 8 election he hobnobbed with a “known drug felon,” according to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Association. In a letter to county lawmakers, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), which represents the group, writes that Wiles attended a campaign fundraiser breakfast on October 8 at the home of felon Raul Ricardo Hernandez.
The sheriff may have violated a number of agency policies prohibiting association with individuals that can be detrimental to the image of the office and conduct that adversely affects the morale or efficiency of the office, the CLEAT letter states. “There is no question that, had this conduct been alleged against a detention officer or deputy, that employee would have been placed under investigation by the Sheriff’s Office of Internal Affairs,” CLEAT writes.
Sheriff Wiles told a local news station that he didn’t know about Hernandez’s background before going to his house over the weekend. “There is an expectation that officers don’t associate with people of bad reputation,” Wiles said in the news report.
“It depends on how old it is. The understanding is people get in trouble, pay their debt to society, we can’t hold that against them.” A veteran El Paso law enforcement officer who worked under Wiles for a decade told Judicial Watch this week that Wiles has damaged the agency’s morale for years and that “he’s out of control.”
It’s important to note that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Officers Association has endorsed Wiles’ opponent, Tom Buchino, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant Major. It’s also worth noting that the treasurer of Wiles’ campaign is the mayor of El Paso (Oscar Leeser), raising questions about how objective the investigation will be.
Judicial Watch has investigated public corruption issues in the El Paso region at the federal, state and municipal levels. Unfortunately, the scope of those investigations has included a number of law enforcement officers.
Judicial Watch’s investigative journalism resulted in Justice Department Inspector General investigations, other Inspectors General, and the involvement of investigative counsel from the staff of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
At one point, the degree of corruption and abuse within the Texas Department of Public Safety compelled Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to send a handwritten note to Governor Greg Abbott in order to protect a brave whistleblower.
Judicial Watch will continue its ongoing investigation of public corruption in the El Paso region. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.