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County Judge Responds To Pending Resignation Of Commissioner Gandara

By Darren Hunt and Stephanie Valle
Published On: Feb 28 2012 08:02:24 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 28 2012 05:00:06 AM CST
EL PASO, Texas -

Commissioner Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr. is expected to officially resign his seat on Commissioners Court on Wednesday, according to County Judge Veronica Escobar.

"(Tuesday) afternoon Commissioner Gandara's attorney Mr. Joe Spencer delivered the attached letter and has authorized me to release it publicly," Escobar said in a statement released to the media. "The letter specifies Commissioner Gandara's intent to resign effective immediately from his position as County Commissioner of Precinct 3. I am under the assumption that my office will receive an official resignation letter from Commissioner Gandara tomorrow, February 29, 2012. I will not be providing any comments to media until that resignation letter has been received."

Read the full letter here.

Gandara, 37, also will withdraw from the State Representative District 75 race. Gandara was elected to Commissioners Court in November 2008.

A federal judge on Monday set Gandara's bond at $50,000 cash bond and Juan Canales' bond at $20,000 cash bond. Both have been charged with federal drug trafficking charges and have been in jail since Thursday morning. During Monday's hearing, prosecutors played video and audio surveillance evidence they said shows Gandara and Canales engaged in illegal activity.

According to prosecutors, Gandara allegedly set up the exchange of large loads of marijuana which was stored at a property Gandara owned in Socorro. At one point in one of the recorded conversations with a confidential informant, Gandara allegedly brags about a small pipeline he has that runs loads of marijuana to Oklahoma and Chicago.

"We were a little surprised with the evidence," Spencer said after Monday's hearing. "I think there's some issues here with entrapment. That's a solid defense. What we have here is ... Mr. Gandara, it appeared, he did have some involvement ... what the extent of involvement is we really don't know."

Gandara was arrested Wednesday night in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Spencer told ABC-7 last week that his client was on his way to San Antonio for a family vacation when he was arrested in Sierra Blanca. Spencer said Gandara was taken by law enforcement to Socorro for a search of his home. Spencer said the search turned up nothing.

"He's just very anxious to get this case behind him," Spencer said on Monday morning. "So he's looking forward to getting through the detention hearing and presenting this case."

"There's really no reason I can think of that it would be denied," Spencer said Monday morning, adding that the government's argument that Gandara is a flight risk and a danger to society is outweighed by the facts that Gandara has deep ties to the community and has not been arrested before.

Canales, 50, of San Elizario, has been charged with federal drug trafficking and money laundering charges in connection with the alleged operation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gandara and Canales have been charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana and one substance count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

The indictment also charges Gandara with three counts of maintaining property for the distribution of marijuana, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison per count.

The indictment alleges that from November 2010 until the present, the defendants conspired to possess and distribute over 50 kilograms of marijuana using property owned by Gandara located at 1000 Coker Road in El Paso County.

The indictment also contains a notice of criminal forfeiture whereby the government is seeking to forfeit any and all proceeds derived from their alleged marijuana trafficking operation.

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