HPL Gang Leader Sentenced to Life Imprisonment
AUG 26 --(MCALLEN, TEXAS) – Jesus Espinoza, a reputed Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) gang leader, has been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced today. United States District Judge Randy Crane handed down the life-term sentence at a hearing this morning. Espinoza was also sentenced to 40 years imprisonment to be served concurrently for attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Espinoza was convicted by a jury’s verdict of both charges in January 2008.
The charges leading to the arrest and subsequent conviction of Espinoza and 14 other defendants convicted by guilty plea or a jury’s verdict in this case arose from an investigation into a series of home invasions and carjackings committed by these defendants and others to obtain cocaine and methamphetamine.
The McAllen Police Department (MPD) received a tip in July 2006 that a group of men were going to commit a home invasion at a house located at the corner of 2nd Street and Gardenia. Responding to the tip, MPD officers first saw a black Lincoln Navigator park across the street from the house, then several vehicles arriving at the house. Several men were seen entering the house and exiting with packages, which were then placed into a red mini-van. The red mini-van fled from MPD officers attempting to make a traffic stop of the van and a high speed chase ensued. The chase continued until the mini-van crashed in San Juan, Texas. At the scene of the crash officers found several handguns, bullet proof vests, masks and 15 kilograms of cocaine.
The investigation determined the individuals involved in this home invasion belonged to two separate groups. One of the groups involved was the HPL gang headed by Jesus Espinoza, including Juan Antonio Gomez, 37, Roberto Ortega-Martinez, 28, Rolando Garcia, 30, Eduardo Ontiveros-Trevino, 37, and Gerardo Gomez-Garcia, 29. Also part of Espinoza’s group but not a member of the HPL was Garcia’s brother-in-law, Juan Vallejo, Jr., 28. The other group was headed by Jose Isidro Jimenez, 25, who received tips from Daniel Sustaita, 28, and Abel Marquez, 26, about where drugs were being stored or when drugs were being transported by vehicles. Jimenez’s group included David Flores, 27, Ricardo Villegas, 28, Jaime Alberto Saavedra, 29, and Victor Marquez, 28. These two groups worked together because Jesus Espinoza and his HPL gang members were willing to break down doors at gunpoint to steal drugs, and Espinoza had numerous contacts willing to buy and quickly sell the drugs Espinoza and his gang stole.
The Espinoza and Jimenez groups had committed several other home invasions and carjackings. On June 5, 2006, acting on a tip received by Jimenez that several kilograms of cocaine were being stored at a particular apartment complex in Mission, Texas, several defendants broke into the apartment at gunpoint and demanded cocaine from the husband and wife occupying the apartment. The husband was pistol-whipped and a gun was held to the wife’s head. When the invaders were unable to find any drugs in the apartment, they took several items along with the husband’s pick-up truck.
On June 23, 2006, again acting on a tip that a particular truck was carrying cocaine, several defendants took the two occupants out of a pick-up truck at gunpoint. When officers found the truck abandoned nearby, they found the defendants, who had taken 10 kilograms of cocaine and left a package containing approximately 7 kilograms of cocaine behind.
In addition to Espinoza, the following five defendants were also sentenced today for their roles in the home invasions and carjackings to obtain drugs.
Robert Ortega-Martinez, was sentenced to 292 months imprisonment for attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and 120 months for using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The sentences are to be served consecutively for a total of 412 months (34 years).
Ricardo Villegas, a member of Jimenez’s group, was sentenced to 235 months imprisonment for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and 84 months for using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The sentences are to be served consecutively for a total of 319 months (26 years); and are to be followed by a life-term of supervised release.
Eduardo Ontiveros-Trevino, an HPL member, was sentenced to 92 months imprisonment for attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and 120 months for using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime to be served consecutively for a total of 212 months (17 years) and followed by a five-year-term of supervised release.
Jaime Alberto Saavedra and Victor Marquez, both members of Jimenez’s group, were each sentenced to a total of 120 months imprisonment for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and for using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime also to be followed by a five-year-year term of supervised release.
Jose Isidro Jimenez, Juan Antonio Gomez, David Flores, Juan Vallejo Jr., Gerardo Gomez-Garcia and Rolando Garcia, have all been convicted of drug trafficking offenses for their roles in these carjackings and home invasions through pleas of guilty.
Daniel Sustaita, 28, Abel Marquez, 26, and Cruz Villegas, 23, were tried and convicted along with Espinoza and are awaiting sentencing.
The investigation leading to the charges was jointly conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Texas Department of Public Safety, McAllen and Mission Police Departments and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anibal J. Alaniz.
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