Operation Havoc Yields 21 Arrests
SEP 03 -- (LAREDO, Texas) – A total of 21 alleged members of a cocaine and marijuana trafficking and money laundering organization are in federal custody today as a result of enforcement actions conducted on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010, in Laredo and Austin, Texas, and Tampa, Fla., acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thomas E. Hinojosa announced today along with United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and Jerry Robinette special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations.
Those now in custody are charged in three sealed and separate indictments with various federal drug trafficking or money laundering offenses or engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise. The indictments, which were returned by a Houston grand jury on July 19, 2010, charged 36 defendants. The indictments have been partially unsealed as to the defendants in custody, but remain sealed pending the arrest of others charged.
“Operation Havoc has delivered a massive blow to the Mexican drug cartels and demonstrates the highest levels of cooperation between DEA and our federal partners with ICE and the Department of Homeland Security,” said Hinojosa. “This operation solidifies the resolve of the law enforcement community in Laredo, Texas, to target and purge violent drug trafficking organizations that negatively impact our Southwest border and our communities.”
The indictments are the culmination of a long term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed “Operation Havoc” spearheaded by DEA and ICE-HSI. The enforcement action netting the arrests was conducted by ICE-HSI and DEA with the invaluable assistance and cooperation of the United States Marshals Service (USMS), Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Webb County District Attorney’s Office, National Drug Intelligence Center and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“Today represents a good day for our agencies and the citizens they swore to protect,” said Robinette. “The action against this criminal organization will make our communities safer and more secure. This investigation attacked the drugs distributed by the organization, its infrastructure and the monies illegally gained while violating our laws. This coordinated takedown is another example of the important partnership we have established with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue those who smuggle drugs and ultimately generate the dirty money.”
Operation Havoc, an 18-month investigation, targeted alleged members of an alleged criminal enterprise engaged in the distribution of bulk quantities of cocaine and marijuana through the use of commercial tractor-trailers and other means from Texas to Georgia and elsewhere. Following the delivery of shipments of narcotics, the drug proceeds were collected and concealed in tractor-trailers or other vehicles and transported back to the Laredo area and eventually into Mexico to further the drug trafficking activity of the organization. Drug proceeds were laundered by conducting financial transactions designed to conceal the source of the money; one of these transactions involved the purchase of real property. The indictments seek to forfeit all property, real and personal, involved in the offenses and all property traceable to such property to include but not limited to approximately $60 million dollars in United States currency.
On Sept. 1, 2010, Elbert Figueroa, 33, the alleged head of the drug trafficking cell operating out of Laredo was arrested at his Laredo home. Figueroa, a Mexican national illegally residing in Laredo, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Saldaña on Sept. 2 and has been ordered detained without bond pending further proceedings. Also arrested on Sept. 1, 2010, were Laredoans Jose Isabel Tobias, 50, and Sergio Segovia, 42, alleged organizers within Figueroa’s drug cell. Tobias was arrested at his Laredo home, while Segovia was arrested in Austin. All three men are accused of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute multi-kilograms quantities of cocaine and marijuana, conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and numerous other money laundering violations. Tobias appeared before Judge Saldaña and was held pending further proceedings. Segovia appeared in Austin before U.S. Magistrate Robert Pitman, waived his identification and detention hearing and was ordered removed to Laredo in USMS custody.
Segovia’s sister, Silvia Segovia Reyes, 57, and her husband, Liborio N. Reyes, 62, are charged in a money laundering conspiracy count along with Segovia and were arrested in the Austin area on Sept. 1. Reyes and Segovia Reyes appeared in Austin before Judge Pitman at which time they waived identification hearings but requested detention hearings before Judge Pitman. That hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 7.
Christino Dominguez, 27, of Chicago, Ill., was arrested in Tampa, Fla., and appeared there yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Pizzo. At that hearing, Dominguez waived identification and detention and will be removed to Laredo in the custody of USMS to face the charges pending against him in this district. Dominguez is charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.
In Laredo, the following 15 defendants named in the various indictments and charged with various drug trafficking and/or money laundering offenses have also been arrested. Each has appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Saldaña in Laredo and been ordered held without bond pending detention hearings scheduled for next week.
Eduardo Paul Delgadillo, 32, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Fernando Lopez Cisneros, 31, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Juan Jose Gomez, 36, Laredo, Texas
Jose A. Medellin, 46, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Alvino Medellin, 33, Laredo, Texas
Eddie Cisneros, 34, Laredo, Texas
Ricardo Alonzo Ramirez, 50, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Rosa Ester Garcia, 36, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Jose Antonio Gutierrez, 59, Laredo, Texas
Jose Guadalupe Segovia,43, Laredo, Texas
Elvia Gonzalez, 38, Mexican national residing in Laredo, Texas
Jorge Carrizalez, 29, Laredo, Texas
Rodolfo Fuentes, 44, Laredo, Texas
Isidro Rojas Lopez, 31, Mexican national in Laredo, Texas
In conjunction with the enforcement action, at least seven vehicles were seized that were allegedly used to facilitate the commission of the crimes alleged in the indictment or as property derived from drug proceeds. Additionally, approximately 50 kilograms of cocaine and 12 firearms were also seized as contraband items. Previously, DEA and ICE-HSI seized approximately $7,402,079 in bulk U.S. currency, 356 Kilograms of cocaine and 1,445 kilograms of marijuana as part of this operation.
A conviction for engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise carries a punishment range of not less than 20 years up to life imprisonment without parole and up to a $2 million fine. The punishment range for the alleged drug trafficking offense depends upon the amount of drugs involved in the offense. For offenses involving five kilograms or more of cocaine or 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana, the punishment range is no less than 10 years up to life imprisonment as well as a $4 million fine. Conspiring to launder drug proceeds and laundering drug proceeds carries a maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the amount of the financial transaction involved, whichever is greater.
Assistant United States Attorney Graciela Rodriguez is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.