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Seven Men Sentenced to Prison for Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering

McALLEN, TX – Six men from Texas and one from Ohio have all been sentenced to prison on drug trafficking and money laundering charges as a result of an investigation that began more than five years ago, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas E. Hinojosa announced today.

The men were charged in an indictment which included substantive counts of drug trafficking and money laundering and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. The seven men include Alonzo Avila, 52, Seferino Avila, 44, Alejandro Avila, 38, all from Mission, Texas; Carlos Javier Gomez, 38, Cristelo Mendoza, 50, both from Edinburg, Texas; Darrell Bruce Hamilton, 52, from Victoria, Texas; and Ricky Wayne Saunders, 45, from Malta, Ohio.

In 2006, DEA agents in New York City seized 340 kilograms of cocaine from a tractor-trailer owned by Alonzo Avila. Agents then began a two-year investigation into the Avila drug trafficking organization that lead to various seizures of drugs and money, including seizures of more than 800 kilograms of cocaine, more than 500 kilograms of marijuana and more than $1,500,000 in drug proceeds.

The investigation revealed that the Avila drug trafficking organization used tractor-trailers to transport cocaine and marijuana from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to various cities including New York, N.Y., Columbus, Ohio, and Atlanta, Ga. After delivering the drugs to these and other cities, the Avila drug trafficking organization would then hide the drug proceeds in tractor-trailers and transport the money back to the Rio Grande Valley. The investigation also revealed that Alonzo Avila was the head of the organization and that he used two of his brothers, Alejandro and Seferino, to assist him. Alonzo Avila also hired various individuals to assist in the loading, packaging and transporting of the drugs throughout the United States.

Ultimately, all of the defendants pleaded guilty to the charges. Today, they were sentenced by United States District Judge Randy Crane.

Alonzo Avila was sentenced to 324 months in federal prison to followed by 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine 385 kilograms of cocaine and to 240 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Both sentences are to run concurrently.

Seferino Avila was sentenced to 292 months in federal prison followed by 10 years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute more than 117 kilograms of cocaine and to 240 months in federal prison for followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Both sentences are to run concurrently.

Alejandro Avila was sentenced to 58 months in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute 60 kilograms of cocaine.

Gomez and Mendoza were sentenced to 240 and 108 months, respectively, for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 385 kilograms of cocaine. Gomez will serve 10 years of supervised release, while Mendoza will serve three.

Hamilton was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute 117 kilograms of cocaine.

Saunders was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.

Hamilton and Saunders have been released on bond where they were permitted to remain and voluntarily surrender at a later date, while the remaining defendants have been in custody where they will remain pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Julio Cesar Leon, 38, from Edinburg, Texas, and Juan Javier Mendiola, 37, from McAllen, Texas, who have also pleaded guilty, will be sentenced at a later date.

The case was investigated by the DEA and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anibal J. Alaniz.


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