Breaking the law is one thing, but breaking the law when you're in law enforcement knocks it up to a whole other level. Add horses into the mix and crikey have you got a problem.
Nine people had their first court appearance Monday morning after being arrested last week for allegedly running an illegal horse-racing track at Rancho El Herradero Training Center, on 12402 Sralla Road in Crosby (which is a town way on the outskirts of Houston, if you're drawing a blank). Of the nine people arrested, six were law enforcement officers and one was charged for impersonating an officer, according to a release from the Harris County District Attorney's Office.
The defendants were charged for racing without a license, under the Texas Racing Act. They'd been running an illegal race track, with off-duty officers hired to police it, according to the release. The DA's office said the officers were also allegedly looking the other way on a whole bunch of illegal gambling (though that would presumably be par for the course if you're working an unlicensed race track). The arrests were the culmination of an 11-month-long investigation involving multiple agencies including the Texas Rangers, the Texas Department of Transportation, the Harris County DA's Office, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Texas Racing Commission, Homeland Security, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -- all the usual suspects, in short.
The officers arrested include Harris County Pct. 1 deputy constables Secar Guadelupe Rangel and Joel Garcia, DPS State Trooper Richard Rene Rivera, reserve Fort Bend County Pct. 2 deputy constables David Green and Edward Scott and reserve Maverick County Sheriff's Office deputy Carlos Garza, according to the release.
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The Harris County deputies were immediately fired when Harris County Pct. 1 Constable Alan Rosen learned they'd been arrested. On the flip-side, defense attorneys are saying their clients are innocent and/or possibly didn't know they were a part of an illegal operation.
"Peace officers take an oath to uphold the law," Terese Buess, chief of the Public Integrity Unit, said. "To discover them actually working in their official capacity to provide security for organized criminal enterprises is extremely alarming and disappointing."
Neighbors told KHOU they'd noticed large crowds and a lot of noise around the place on weekends, but when it comes to the actual owners of Rancho El Herradero Training Center, a group of men who claimed to be the proprietors said there wasn't any gambling going on at their track. This sounds to Hair Balls a lot like that scene from Casablanca, but who knows, maybe there were just a lot of people hanging around who like to watch horses run. Maybe.