Two former Harris County Precinct One deputies charged with taking part in an unlicensed horse racing and gambling operation claim they had permission to work at the illegal track from their supervisors.
The attorney representing former deputies Joel Garcia and Secar Guadelupe Rangel says the men worked there off-duty.
"They were police officers, they approved extra jobs, their supervisors knew they were out there and they were just making sure there weren't any shootouts, gun fights and that people got along," said defense attorney Burt Springer.
But Constable Alan Rosen flatly denies that.
"They did not get permission. They did not have approval to work this extra job," Rosen said. "Even if they did we would never allow our officers to work an illegal gambling operation."
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office arrested six police officers, the track owner, and two others Saturday after an 11-month long investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Rangers.
The unlicensed racetrack, called Rancho El Herradero, allegedly operated for at least two years in Crosby. According to prosecutors, undercover video shows the officers providing security while patrons openly gambled.
"Police officers are supposed to uphold the law and we expect them to do that," said prosecutor Angela Weltin.
Garcia and Rangel's attorney says his clients didn't know there was gambling at the track. But prosecutors said illegal wagering was so open, some officers watched money being exchanged in front of them, and even gave advice to customers on how to bet.
Six police officers from four different agencies are charged with Texas Racing Act Violation.
• Carlos Garza, a reserve deputy for the Maverick County Sheriff's Office
• Edward Scott, a reserve for the Fort Bend County Deputy Precinct 2 Constable's Office
• David Green, a reserve for the Fort Bend County Deputy Precinct 2 Constable's Office
• Richard Rene Rivera, a DPS State Trooper
• Joel Garcia, a deputy for the Harris County Constable's Office
• Secar Guadelupe Rangel, a deputy for the Harris County Constable's Office
Also in court Monday were the track owner, Reginaldo Mandujano, and two others -- Consuelo Rivera and Diana Marie Salinas -- charged with operating an unlicensed track. Rivera faces an additional charge of impersonating a public servant.