Former El Paso County politician and convicted drug trafficker to be sentenced Wednesday

Supporters of Willie Gandara, Jr. petition judge for leniency

POSTED: 11:59 PM MST Nov 13, 2012    UPDATED: 04:46 PM MST Dec 25, 2012 
EL PASO, Texas -

He was called County Commissioner by day, the "Godfather" by night.

Former El Paso County politician and convicted drug trafficker Willie Gandara, Jr. will learn his fate in a federal courtroom Wednesday.

Gandara, Jr. was an El Paso County Commissioner and former Soccoro mayor before being convicted of operating a Lower Valley stash house and masterminding the shipment of hundreds of pounds of marijuana to Oklahoma and Chicago.

Gandara supporters wrote letters to U.S. District Judge Frank Montalvo, pleading for leniency in the former politician's sentencing.

Letters of support came from Gandara's wife, Claudia Gandara, his oldest daughter, Gabrielle, and other El Paso County residents who claim Gandara is a decent man.

Among those who wrote pleas for leniency are San Elizario I.S.D. District Social Worker Nora Garcia, Familias Triunfadoras Executive Director Maria Covernali-Ortiz,  attorney David Austin, LULAC President Nicholas Dominguez, and El Paso Community College professor Rodolfo Hernandez.

Gandara faces up to 40 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.