|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
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OPD officer among 25 indicted in massive Mexican mafia sweep
BY VALERIE REDDELL
HOUSTON — Onalaska Police Officer Michael Anthony Mares, 50, was arrested by federal officers Wednesday after a 22-count indictment against naming 25 defendants allegedly tied to the Mexican Mafia prison gang was unsealed. The sealed indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Texas Houston Division on Oct. 4. Mares is charged in two counts of the indictment. He is accused of selling a .25 caliber Beretta Model 950 either knowingly or having reasonable cause to believe that the buyer was a convicted felon on or about June 21, 2010. The second charge is in connection with the sale of a .40 caliber Springfield Armory XD pistol, according to the indictment. Mares was arrested in Houston Wednesday and, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website was released from custody on Thursday. Mares has been certified as a Texas peace officer for 14 years, 10 months according to records provided by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education (TCLEOSE). He has been a full-time officer with Onalaska PD since May 15, 2011 and was a reserve officer with that department beginning March 9, 2010. Chief Ron Gilbert said Friday that Mares had been recommended by another officer working for the department at the time. “He had a very secure background check, but this just shows really never know,” Gilbert said. “His employment with Onalaska Police Department has been terminated for failure to report to work Wednesday night,” Gilbert said. “The Texas Ranger told me later he was incarcerated at the time.” Gilbert described Mares as having a very quiet personality but over the last couple months he had been unusually quiet and distant, even for Mares. Gilbert also said he has not been asked by anyone connected with the federal investigation whether Mares acquired the guns in connection with his employment with OPD — since law enforcement officers routinely recover firearms that already have been reported stolen and it would not be difficult for a corrupt officer to divert it to another criminal enterprise. Other law enforcement officers familiar with the ongoing investigation speaking on condition of anonymity say when the arrest warrants were executed a kilo of cocaine was also seized and additional felony charges are likely to be filed against some of the 22 indicted defendants that have been arrested. Houston media partners who more frequently cover federal law enforcement agencies and courts commented Friday that at least a portion of the computer tracking system for federal cases was down. One reporter said the Bureau of Prisons inmate tracking system occasionally lists a defendant as “released” when he is in court since, technically, he is in the custody of a U.S. Marshal or some other official rather than within the detention facility. When the U.S. District Clerk’s office in Houston was contacted Friday afternoon, staff members said they could not determine if bail had been set for Mares or not. Mares’ TCLEOSE record shows that he was awarded an advanced certification in September 2007; right about the time he did coursework on Rural Organized Crime and Gangs.