EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Federal agents on Friday arrested an El Paso police officer for allegedly helping a local drug distributor further his criminal enterprise.

The arrest came on the same day authorities unsealed a three-count grand jury indictment charging 44-year-old Fred Saenz and EPPD Officer Monica Garcia with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to unlawfully use a communication facility and conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premise.

Saenz faced an additional charge of possession with intent to distribute cocaine in an amount greater than 500 grams (half a kilo).

According to court records, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration and officers of the El Paso Police Department on Nov. 10 executed two search warrants on homes allegedly utilized by Saenz to conduct drug trafficking activity.

The agents and officers seized $14,450 in cash at one of the homes and 1.2 kilograms of cocaine at the other one. On the same day, Saenz was arrested based on a federal criminal complaint, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The investigation revealed that Garcia allegedly used her privileges at the El Paso Police Department to perform counter-surveillance for Saenz, including investigating license plates on vehicles associated with undercover operations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

“Law enforcement officers must be held to the highest standards. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to ensuring that any public official who violates the law is brought to justice, and we will devote the necessary resources to ensure that this important part of our mission is carried out effectively,” said Gregg N. Sofer, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

Kyle Williamson, DEA special agent in charge of the El Paso Division, lamented the alleged involvement of a public servant in a serious crime. “The charged conduct unfairly tarnishes the proud reputation of the thousands of law enforcement officers in the El Paso area who put their lives on the line every day to protect our residents and their communities,” he said.

EPPD Police Chief Greg Allen also weighed in on the arrest.

“All El Paso Police Department employees are sworn to uphold the law and are held to the highest of standards,” he said. “The men and women of the El Paso Police Department are dedicated to serving the community and are appalled at the actions of this individual.”

Allen said he wanted to reassure the El Paso community that any of his officers who violate the law and their oath as public servants will be “dealt with sternly and swiftly.”

The penalty for maintaining a drug-involved premise carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The charge of unlawfully using a communication facility carries a penalty of four years in prison.

Garcia faces up to 20 years in prison for the drug-related charge and Saenz up to 40.

Both suspects remain in federal custody.

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