CORPUS CHRISTI, TX – Edward Mata, 27, Richard Scott Patton, 40, Luis Andres Longoria, 39, and Servando Guerra, 61, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge, Javier F. Peña and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
The men, all residents of Falfurrias, Texas, were part of an organized effort to transport marijuana from September 2008 to January 2011 through ranches around the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint using four-wheel-drive vehicles known as “gators” to avoid detection. Agents determined that the organization was led by Jose Maria Carbajal Jr., 41, also of Falfurrias, who was prosecuted in a separate case and is pending sentencing.
During their pleas today, the government described the use of four-wheel-drive vehicles by this organization in their criminal enterprise. The gators would be loaded with marijuana at a point south of the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint. Then, the gators would be piloted through ranches to a place north of the checkpoint so the marijuana could be transported via ordinary means further into the United States for distribution. During the investigation, one of the marijuana-laden gator vehicles was apprehended and another was found abandoned on a ranch.
According to documents filed of record in the case, Guerra was Carbajal’s connection with drug suppliers in Rio Grande City, Texas, and Mexico and was the person who transported money to the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico. Guerra also traveled into Mexico and spoke with the suppliers of the drugs. Longoria helped Carbajal scout ranches and roads and assisted in the transportation of drugs. Patton usually transported the marijuana through the brush and ranches until it arrived north of the checkpoint, while Mata also assisted Carbajal in arranging the transportation of drugs. In addition, Longoria’s and Mata’s residences were frequently used by this organization to store large amounts of narcotics after it has circumvented the checkpoint.
United States District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who accepted their guilty pleas today, has set sentencing for these four Feb. 27, 2012. At that time, they each face a minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in federal prison and a maximum $8 million fine. A fifth defendant, Lamar Gonzalez, 38, has not pleaded guilty and currently set for trial. He is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigation and the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Muschenheim as part of the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force.