Willie "Godfather" Gandara Jr. in Court on Drug Trafficking Charges
POSTED: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 9:08pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 11:02am
EL PASO — Another El Paso County Commissioner is in the hot seat tonight.
This time it's commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. who is also referred to as "Godfather" in court documents.
He's in jail tonight in connection with drug trafficking and money laundering.
Commissioner Gandara went before a U.S. Magistrate Judge this afternoon to hear his charges.
Gandara is facing up to forty years in federal prison.
Federal agents have been investigating Gandara since November of 2010.
Law enforcement also arrested 50 year-old Juan Canales, claiming the two conspired together to traffic the drugs.
Gandara and Canales were arrested last night by ICE and DEA agents.
Both are being held behind bars without bond.
Commissioner Gandara's attorney says the commissioner was with his family on their way to San Antonio for a vacation when he was arrested at a check point in Sierra Blanca last night.
Agents already had a warrant out for his arrest, law enforcement then searched his car and home and his attorney says, they found nothing.
Gandara is being charged with 5 counts.
Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 kilos of marijuana, 3 counts of manufacturing and 1 count of possession with intent to distribute.
We spoke with his brother, just moments after the commissioner appeared in court and he says he stands by his brothers innocence and that the arrest is a witch hunt.
"You hate it you want to do something about it but you can't The law is the law and like I said here in the united states it's innocent until proven guilty unless you're a Gandara it's guilty until proven innocent," Gary Gandara said.
"He's shocked he can't believe what they're charging him with as I said before we haven't seen any of the evidence I haven't even seen the indictment," Joe Spencer said.
Gandara's attorney, Joe Spencer, said he's going to review the indictment that was just unsealed late this afternoon this evening.
Commissioner Gandara could spend up to 40 years behind bars and up to $1.5 million dollars in fines.
Gandara will be in court again next Tuesday for his bond hearing.
His attorney says Gandara plans on pleading not guilty.
We'll be in the courtroom next week to give you the latest.