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Agustin Dovalina, III (born 1955), retired suddenly on October 22, 2007, after eleven years of service as chief of police in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas. Four days later, on October 26, Dovalina pleaded guilty in United States District Court in Laredo to extortion for accepting bribes from the owner of a gambling establishment. Dovalina was twice paid $5,000, in June and September 2006, in exchange for protecting the gambling operation from police raids. The government charged that Dovalina took a total of $13,500 in cash or gifts from the owner of Entertainment World, who became a cooperating witness in the case. The acceptance of the bribes was caught on either audio or video tape. Dovalina even offered to divide the police department to keep two associates, Lieutenant Eloy Rodriguez and Sergeant Alfonso Santos, in a position to make sure that the businesses were left alone. Rodriguez and Santos pleaded guilty in the same federal corruption investigation in July 2007. The pair pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit extortion and agreed to cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in exchange for having some eighteen other charges dropped.<ref>Julian Aguilar and
Ashley Richards, "Dovalina admits taking bribes", Laredo Morning Times, October 27, 2007, p. 1, 12A</ref>

Democratic Mayor Raul G. Salinas called Dovalina's retirement and plea a "sad and gloomy day" but promised that the municipality would continue to support rank-and-file police officers in the pursuit of their duties. Republican City Councilman Gene C. Belmares said that he was "so let down. . . . Words cannot express how unfortunate this is and how disappointed I am. If you can't trust your police officers, who can you trust? That's what hurts the most."<ref>Julian Aguilar and Ashley Richards, "Dovalina admits taking bribes", Laredo Morning Times, October 27, 2007, p. 1, 12A</ref>Former Mayor Betty Flores, Salinas' predecessor in office, said that she considers Dovalina to have been "one of the finest police chiefs Laredo has ever had. He was the most educated and one that has served during some of Laredo's toughest times."<ref>Juan Aguilar and Ashley Richards, "Chief quits force", Laredo Morning Times, October 23, 2007, p. 10A</ref>

Dovalina said that he took illegal money because he was going through a "financial crisis" though he was earning just over $148,000 annually, a considerable salary in a border city like Laredo. Moreover, he had several traffic accidents in his police vehicle, underwent heart surgery, and had a house fire. Dovalina expressed his regret to the community but asked that his "family privacy" be honored by both the media and the general public. He served on the police force for nearly thirty years. He is married and has five children, ranging in age (2007) from thirteen to thirty. <ref>Julian Aguilar and
Ashley Richards, "Dovalina admits taking bribes", Laredo Morning Times, October 27, 2007, p. 1, 12A</ref>

U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen explained that by pleading guilty, Dovalina cannot appeal. He was released on a $100,000 surety bond with two signers. He faces a potential twenty years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. With his retirement announcement earlier in the week, Dovalina preserves his municipal pension, which is exempt from the ramifications of his crime.<ref>Juan Aguilar and Ashley Richards, "Chief quits force", Laredo Morning Times, October 23, 2007, p. 1, 10A</ref>

Dovalina is descended from a prominent family whose members trace their ancestry to the 18th century founders of Laredo. He is a cousin of former City Manager Lazaro "Larry" Dovalina (born 1947), who was dismissed after six years in the top administrative post on a 5-4 vote by the Laredo City Council in October 2006, with Mayor Salinas having cast the tie-breaking vote.<ref></ref> Dovalina is also a cousin of Ramon H. Dovalina (born 1943), who retired in the summer of 2007 as the president of Laredo Community College. Chief Dovalina also previously taught some criminal justice classes at LCC. He is Roman Catholic.

The police chief is appointed by the city council on the recommendation of the city manager. Until a new chief is named following a national search, Assistant Chief Fructuoso San Miguel, III, will be the acting chief.<ref></ref>

In Texas, mayors and city council members are elected on nonpartisan ballots, but Salinas and Belmares are known to be Democrat and Republican, respectively. Belmares, who is in his second term on the council, is a former Webb County Republican chairman. Salinas, while recovering from hernia surgery in September 2007, had himself taken by stretcher to attend a reception in Laredo for former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who visited Laredo on behalf of his wife's presidential bid.<ref>Tricia Cortez, "Clinton campaigns; Hillary wants to create a path to citizenship", Laredo Morning Times, September 15, 2007, p. 1</ref>




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