By Steve Neavling
A Border Patrol agent who patrolled ranch land for smugglers of drugs and humans is accused of helping his brothers run a criminal family business responsible for a decapitated corpse found off the Texas coast during spring break.
Joel Luna, 31, has been charged with capital murder as part of a drug trafficking conspiracy, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Luna’s attorney said his client never killed anyone, and it was his brothers, Fernando and Eduardo, who are to blame for the slayings.
“There’s an argument to be made against my client that’s guilt by association. People get swept up with those who are really guilty. It’s family,” said Joel’s attorney, Carlos A. Garcia. “Associating or going to a quinceañera is not a crime. He was just a family man, a working man. Think about how many Border Patrol members who live on the border have relatives here without visas.”
While Joel was for in San Juan but raised south of the border, his brothers were born in Mexico.
At the time of his hiring by Border Patrol, Luna appeared to be a great hire: He was an Army combat veteran and a high school ROTC standout.
The Los Angeles Times wrote:
In 2013, Joel notified Border Patrol officials that Eduardo had been temporarily abducted by cartel leaders in Reynosa who knew Joel was an agent and had threatened his family there, according to Cameron County Assistant Dist. Atty. Gustavo “Gus” Garza.
Eduardo, Fernando and their families crossed into the U.S. illegally to live at Joel’s house. Luna gave his sister-in-law $42,000 and instructed her to buy a house in San Juan for his younger brother, according to an arrest affidavit. Fernando moved in across the street, Garza said.
Fernando had been laid off and used severance pay to buy Veteran’s Tire Shop, about 20 miles north in Edinburg, according to an affidavit. He hired Eduardo and kept three other employees. Investigators would later argue that the run-down shop, like other businesses in south Texas, was a front for money laundering and drug trafficking.