Filed Under:  Crime, Human Smuggling, Human Trafficking, Illegal Aliens

Convicted smuggler worked for constable campaign

June 12th 2012   ·   0 Comments

McALLEN — One Precinct 2 constable candidate is without a treasurer, after the campaign worker was convicted last week of smuggling illegal immigrants and trying to make a 16-year-old girl have sex with him.

Pedro Salazar, 56, is in custody awaiting sentencing after U.S. District Court in McAllen found him guilty of conspiracy and harboring illegal aliens. Prosecutors said he offered help in February to a stranded group of illegal immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala, but instead put them to work in his restaurant.

Prosecutors also said that with no clothes on, he chased the teenager around a room telling her that she needed to have sex with him or he would cause problems for her, but he gave up when she threatened to tell the police.

Corresponding addresses and birthdates on various state records indicate that the convicted man is the same Pedro Salazar who serves as campaign treasurer for Constable Gilbert “Chato” Alaniz. Alaniz, a nearly 20-year incumbent, is in a runoff to hold his seat against challenger Martin “Marty” Cantu.

Alaniz said Monday that he had spent the past week in the hospital with his dying nephew and was unaware of Salazar’s conviction.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said. “I know he had some problems … something with Border Patrol.”

Alaniz said he didn’t have time to discuss the campaign, as he was at his nephew’s funeral, but added “if (Salazar) is in trouble he should pay for his wrongdoings.”

Cantu said he didn’t know Salazar, but had gotten calls from supporters asking if the man convicted was also his opponent’s treasurer.

“Nowadays nothing surprises me,” he said. “I think anytime you have anyone close to your campaign it needs to be someone of respect and not someone who had a criminal record.”

His treasurer is Pharr Mayor Leo “Polo” Palacios.

The Precinct 2 constable race has already been eventful, after a campaign worker for ousted third candidate Hector “JoJo” Mendez was shot outside a San Juan polling location on Election Day, May 29. The runoff is set for July 31.

A version of this column originally appeared in www.themonitor.com.

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