Jury Convicts Kingsville Man Of Marijuana Trafficking Via The Intercoastal Waterway
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Michael "Mickey" Pena, 45, of Kingsville, has been found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The federal jury returned their verdict just moments ago in Corpus Christi after less than one day of trial and only 30 minutes of deliberation.
During trial, the government proved Pena participated in a drug trafficking organization that transported large amounts of marijuana concealed in the hulls of altered shallow-bottom fishing boats. The drugs were transported via the intra-coastal waterway from Port Mansfield to Corpus Christi in an effort to circumvent Border Patrol checkpoints in Falfurrias and Sarita. Testimony revealed that in early 2012, organization members deconstructed a 21-foot Dargel Scout fishing boat over the course of 20 days. They then loaded the hull of the vessel with more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana and rebuilt the deck of the boat. The boat was then launched in Port Mansfield and Co-defendant Rogelio Mendoza drove it north. Marine interdiction agents with Customs and Border Protection intercepted the vessel just south of Corpus Christi.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Pena, who arrived at marker 37 with an empty boat trailer shortly after the boat was intercepted, had registered the vessel in his name two weeks earlier. Certified state documents showed that the previous owner of both the boat and the empty trailer were members of the organization. Agents also testified that they had conducted surveillance of organization members scouting boat ramps near marker 37 about six weeks before the seizure and then immediately drove to Pena’s Kingsville residence.
Mendoza, 37, and five other members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty before U.S. district judges in Corpus Christi and have been or are awaiting sentencing. Those include Alberto Lopez aka Alberto Lopez-Reyna, 39, Lombardo Zarate, 49, Glen Dial, 56, Luz Ramirez, 25, and Hector Perez-Gonzalez, 39.
Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for April 17, 2013, at which time he will face a minimum of five and up to 40 years in prison as well as a possible $5 million fine and a substantial money judgment. Pena is in custody where he will remain pending sentencing.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of the Kingsville Narcotics Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston.