Three Arrested on Federal Drug and Money Laundering Charges
DEC 03 -- (HOUSTON) - Abelardo Guerra, 37, Jose Luis Gutierrez, 51, and Roberto Canales, 45, have been arrested following the return of an indictment charging conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and money laundering, United States Attorney Tim Johnson and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Zoran B. Yankovich announced today. Guerra and Gutierrez, both of Houston, were arrested by investigating agents last night and early this morning. Canales, of McAllen, Texas, is in federal custody in El Paso, Texas. An arrest warrant remains outstanding for a fourth defendant, Jose Raul Zavala, 34, of McAllen, who remains a fugitive.
The indictment accused the defendants of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, four counts of laundering monetary instruments and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. As part of the indictment, the United States is seeking the forfeiture of approximately $1,273,000 of drug proceeds and a residence located at 17715 Badtke Road, in Hockley, Texas.
The indictment alleges the controlled substances were transported from Texas to Tennessee for distribution in or about October 2006 and continued up to and including June 2008. The conspirators would collect the drug proceeds and return them back to Texas to promote the drug trafficking activity, according to the indictment. All four defendants are charged in both conspiracy counts. Guerra and Gutierrez are also charged in each of the four additional counts of money laundering. Canales is charged in one additional count, while Zavala is charged in two other counts of money laundering. It is alleged that the conspirators laundered more than $2 million in U.S. currency. Law enforcement agents seized approximately $917,286 in U.S. currency on Dec. 18, 2006, as part of the ongoing investigation.
The conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years up to a maximum of life imprisonment upon conviction and a $4 million fine. The money laundering conspiracy and the substantive money laundering counts each carries a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to twice the amount of the financial transaction or $500,000.
Guerra appeared before a United States Magistrate Judge in Houston this afternoon and will remain in custody. Gutierrez is expected to make his initial appearance in Houston tomorrow. Canales will make his initial appearance before a United States Magistrate Judge in El Paso pending transfer and removal to the Houston Division to face the charges. The United States will be seeking the continued detention of all three men without bond pending trial in this case.
The charges are the result of a two-year joint Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigative effort conducted by the DEA, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Jacinto City, Pasadena and Houston. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jesse Rodriguez.
An indictment is a formal accusation, not evidence.