Warrant issued for Texas state lawmaker after cameras catch him dropping cocaine at airport

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — An arrest warrant was issued late Thursday for State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, after he was caught on surveillance footage in early September dropping a white envelope with cocaine inside.

The warrant signed by a Travis County magistrate states Nevárez faces a charge of Possession of Substance in Penalty Group 1, which is a third-degree felony and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Bond amount has been set at $10,000. Jail records show he is not in custody.

According to an affidavit for a search warrant to collect Nevárez’s DNA, filed in late October, an officer from the Texas Department of Public Safety was called for help by DPS Texas Highway Patrol regarding a substance that was found by a Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) employee. It states earlier on Sept. 6, four small clear plastic baggies “containing a white powder-like substance” were found inside a sealed envelope outside the entrance of the TxDOT Flight Services in Austin.

The envelope had a letterhead that was from the “Office of the State of Texas House of Representatives Member Poncho Nevárez,” the affidavit says. Surveillance footage shows Nevárez leaving TxDOT Flight Services and “dropping a white paper object” as he was getting into the front passenger seat of his chief of staff’s black SUV.

The contents of the envelope tested positive for the presence of cocaine, weighing more than one gram but less than four grams, according to the affidavit.

“Through training and experience, I have learned that individuals involved in the possession of narcotics would like to remain discreet and typically conceal the narcotics as best as they can,” Special Agent Otto Cabrera wrote. “Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that Rep. Nevárez, using his own letterhead envelope, licked and sealed the envelope that contained the cocaine in order to keep it concealed.”

Nevárez issued a written statement in response to the details in the affidavit Thursday morning:

“Unfortunately, the news is true. It is why I chose not to seek re-election. I had imperiled my health. I do not have anyone to blame but myself. I accept this because it is true and it will help me get better. In a weird way, I am grateful. Grief and addiction were consuming me, but oddly enough, I feel better now than I have in a long time and I mean that. I have many relationships to repair starting at home and I intend to seek treatment. I apologize to each and every person that feels I have let them down. I look forward to a future with my family and friends, to being healthy and finally, home.”

The affidavit was first posted online by the conservative group Direct Action Texas. On Nov. 6, Nevárez announced he would deactivate Facebook. Two days after, the Eagle Pass Democrat announced he would not be seeking re-election.

Nevárez is currently the chair of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee and is also vice-chair of the Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

The Texas Democratic Party issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

“Addiction is a serious illness and it is important for people to access the help they need. Rep. Nevárez is taking responsibility and seeking treatment. We wish the best to him and his family during his recovery.”