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WEDNESDAY, MAY 2, 2007                                                       PHONE: (409) 839-2538
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THREE SENTENCED FOR DISTRIBUTING METHAMPHETAMINE IN EAST TEXAS
Operation Icebox puts the Freeze on Meth Dealers

            TYLER, TX – United States Attorney Matthew D. Orwig announced today that three men have been sentenced to federal prison for drug violations in the Eastern District of Texas.
 
SIMON BALDERAS, JR., 30, of Tyler, was sentenced to a total of 1822 months (151 years) in federal prison, forfeiture of two homes, various firearms and a $1 million judgment.

JOSE ZAVALA, 27, of Tyler, was sentenced to a total of 1822 months (151 years) in federal prison, forfeiture of various firearms and a $1 million judgment.

RENE ZAVALA, 31, of Bocas, Mexico, was sentenced to a total of 1795 months (149.5 years) in federal prison, forfeiture of various firearms and a $1 million judgment.

Balderas, Jr. and Jose Zavala were convicted on 22 counts and Rene Zavala was convicted on 21 counts of an indictment after jury trial on November 2, 2006.  The charges included conspiracy to distribute more than 15 kilograms of methamphetamine, related drug charges and firearms charges.

            According to information presented in court, an investigation began in October 2004 into the distribution of “ice” methamphetamine in east Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.  During this time, the investigation resulted in 22 undercover drug purchases, the purchase and seizure of at least 15 handguns and the seizure of at least four pounds of “ice” methamphetamine and amounts of marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs, the seizure of three vehicles and a safe containing approximately $300,000 cash.  A 26-count federal indictment was returned in March charging 19 co-defendants with federal charges.  Thus far, Operation ICEBOX has resulted in 19 convictions, over $300,000.00 cash, cars, firearms, and one house seized, and $1.95 million in forfeiture judgments.

            The evidence presented at trial indicated that Balderas, Jr., Rene and Jose Zavala and others utilized sources of methamphetamine from Mexico to develop a distribution organization operating in Tyler, Texas.  These defendants and others engaged in significant methamphetamine distribution in Tyler, Texas, Shreveport, Louisiana, Alabama, and as far as Miami, Florida.  The distribution involved hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, thousands of ecstasy (MDMA) tablets and other pharmaceutical drugs.  Balderas, Jr. also claimed to be the leader of the Norteno street gang in Tyler.
  
            This case is being investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the United States Marshals Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Tyler Police Department, the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, and the Henderson Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys William Baldwin and Mary Ann Cozby.

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