Former El Paso County Commissioner Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges
August 18, 2012

Photo courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
The mugshot of Willie Gandara Jr.

EL PASO, Texas -- Former El Paso County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr. has pleaded guilty to storing and distributing hundreds of pounds of marijuana.

In federal court Friday, Gandara stood before the judge wearing a dark suit and a holding his head down. When the judge asked for his plea, Gandara paused several seconds before leaning into the mic to say, "guilty."

In late February, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency arrested Gandara at home. Since 2008 he served as commissioner representing the southern district of El Paso County. Before his arrest he was running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Whyte said Gandara allowed hundreds of pounds of marijuana to be stored at his ranch in Socorro, Texas. One load of drugs was transported via semi truck to Chicago hidden in boxes of chile powder.

Multiple members of the Gandara family are currently facing criminal charges. They include Gandara's father, Willie Sr. who is facing bribery charges related to his time on an El Paso school board. Gandara's uncle, Jesus, is facing corruption charges related to his time as the superintendent for a school district in Chula Vista, Calif.

A federal judge released Gandara on bond until his sentencing hearing scheduled for Nov. 14.