EL PASO, TX -- Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Acting Special Agent in Charge Dennis Ulrich, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso and United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced that a federal magistrate has ordered that six individuals arrested in connection with an El Paso-based marijuana trafficking operation remain in federal custody pending trial. A seventh individual awaits his detention hearing tomorrow morning.
These arrests were made as a result of an O rganized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force investigation. OCDETF is a nationwide program that combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated attack against major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.
The defendants include:
The defendants were charged in a six-count federal grand jury indictment returned on November 22, 2011, and unsealed on November 30, 2011. During this investigation, authorities have seized approximately 160 pounds of marijuana, 10 firearms--including 3 Draco Model pistols and seven Model GP/WASR AK-47 assault rifles--and approximately 7,500 rounds of ammunition.
“Nothing is more important than keeping our community safe. DEA and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in El Paso will continue to utilize our combined resources to target criminal organizations that threaten our security by trafficking drugs and guns. The arrests and seizures in this investigation send a strong, unified message that this type of criminal activity will not be tolerated in our community, and that those accused of committing these offenses will be brought to justice," stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit.
“HSI and DEA partnered to strike a hard blow to a criminal network,” said Dennis Ulrich, acting special agent in charge for ICE-HSI in El Paso. “Our agencies’ joint efforts combat all facets of transnational crimes, including the smuggling of weapons into Mexico that potentially could be used by drug cartels to support their ongoing criminal enterprises.”
At a detention hearing this afternoon, United States Magistrate Judge David Guaderrama ordered that Escarzaga remain in federal custody pending trial. Campa is scheduled to have his detention hearing tomorrow at 9:00am before Judge Guaderrama. The remaining defendants all waived their right to a detention hearing prior to today agreeing to remain in federal custody pending trial.
Upon conviction of: the conspiracy charge, the defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison; a substantive drug charge, Oaxaca-Alcala and Roberto-Flores face up to 30 years in federal prison because of penalty enhancement due to their criminal history–other defendants, up to five years in federal prison; the managing a residence charge, the defendant faces up to 20 years in federal prison; the obliterated serial number/firearm charge, the defendant faces up to ten years in federal prison; and, the felon-in-possession charge, the defendant up to ten years in federal prison.
This case is being investigated by agents with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force group which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) together with the U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, El Paso Police Department and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.