TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A former Smith County deputy accused of illegally assisting a drug dealer from Mexico is now facing a federal charge of accepting a bribe.

28-year-old Luis A. Sandoval was arrested back in August and charged with misuse of official information in state court. It came after a months-long investigation by the East Texas Anti-Gang Task Force. Sandoval was employed with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office from November 2017 to August 2021.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Sandoval in March on a charge of receiving a bribe as an agent of an organization that receives federal funds.

The federal court documents allege that the bribe had “a value of $5,000 or more” and was “rewarded in connection with taking official action to protect the person’s illegal enterprise from law enforcement activity.”

Under the federal charge, Sandoval faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine that could reach $250,000.

An arrest warrant from last year for Texas state court alleged that Sandoval received a text message from a phone in Mexico asking him to run the driver’s license of a man trying to cross back into the U.S. who was a known drug dealer.

The warrant included excerpts from multiple text messages from July 2 to July 3 that had to be translated from Spanish. One of them read:

“I don’t know if you can do this, but I have a friend who moves drugs so what happened was my friend, they got his truck, they got him with a bunch of drugs, now the truck’s over here, and he hasn’t crossed. His mom and wife are crossing, we need to find out if this dude has an arrest report so I need you to check that because he sent me the dude’s ID, if you could check it out for me.”

TEXT TO LUIS SANDOVAL

Another text sent later in the day to Sandoval said “I will deposit for you. Look, there’s nothing going to be wrong. I’ll erase it once I show it to him.”

Sandoval agreed and searched the Texas Crime Information Center which is used to lookup warrants and criminal history, which can only be accessed through a unique login given to each peace officer. He texted back the friend that the man, Martin Manriquez, had no active warrants for his arrest.

The Texas Penal Code has two requirements to violate the statute of misuse of official information that Sandoval is charged with:

  • Discloses information from his employment for a nongovernment purpose
  • The information has not been made public

The warrant alleged that Sandoval violated this section because the information was accessed from a secure database that is not available to the general public.

Smith County Sheriff Larry R. Smith released a statement after Sandoval’s arrest.

“Unfortunately law enforcement officers, for one reason or another, make bad decisions. However, they will always be held to a higher standard at the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Within just two days of my taking office on January 1st of 2013, we were faced with having to arrest one of our own,” stated Smith. “Unfortunately, since that time, several others have taken the wrong path and have made conscious decisions to tarnish the badge. This is in contravention to each of the dedicated and hardworking men and women of the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. There is absolutely no place in this Sheriff’s Office for dishonesty, and I assure you once it’s identified and rears its ugly head, it will not be tolerated.”

Sheriff Larry Smith