United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe
Eastern District of Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: DAVILYN WALSTON
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2007 PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER
WWW.USDOJ.GOV/USAO/txe PHONE: (409) 839-2538
CELL: (409) 553-9881
PRISON SENTENCES CONCLUDE
MAJOR COCAINE TRAFFICKING RING PROSECUTION
(Beaumont, TX) United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe announced today that prison sentences were handed down to the lead defendants this week ending a four year investigation and prosecution into a cocaine trafficking organization that stretched from the Texas/Mexico border to the streets of Beaumont and Port Arthur. In the past several months, United States District Judge Thad Heartfield has assessed prison sentences for offenses ranging from conspiracy to distribute cocaine in amounts greater than 150 kilograms to misprison of a felony.
According to information presented in court, the investigation began on July 1, 2003, when Houston police officers stopped a truck found to contain 77 kilograms of cocaine. The investigation showed that the cocaine was being shipped from Houston to New Orleans where it was to be distributed. This seizure led to the federal prosecution of a number of defendants who were involved in the New Orleans distribution ring. The seizure also triggered an extensive investigation into those involved in supplying the cocaine seized in 2003. In an investigation dubbed Operation Urban Cowboy, federal and local authorities began investigating JOSE MIGUEL NUNEZ, a 38-year-old Pasadena resident, who was found to be distributing large quantities of cocaine from his business - the Pasadena Boot and Shoe Store at 2710 S. Shaver in Pasadena, Texas. Investigators determined Nunez to have been the source of the cocaine seized on July 1, 2003. In a separate, though ultimately related investigation, in January 2005, DEA Agents and local police officers in Jefferson County began an investigation into the cocaine trafficking activities of HOWARD DWAYNE WALKER, a 34-year-old Beaumont resident, also known as "Duck". This investigation, dubbed Operation Snow Duck, determined that Walker was obtaining large quantities of cocaine and distributing it in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area. According to evidence presented in Court, on the evening of June 8, 2005, officers observed Walker travel from Beaumont to Pasadena, where he met with Nunez at the Pasadena Boot Store. After observing this meeting, Operations Urban Cowboy and Snow Duck were joined. Several of the more significant events in the investigation were as follows:
- On June 30, 2005, officers and agents again followed Walker from Beaumont to Houston, where he was observed meeting with Nunez. Upon his return to Beaumont, Walker was stopped by police and found to be in possession of 8 kilograms of cocaine;
- During surveillance operations on July 18, 2005, Nunez directed an associate, Manuel Martinez Fuentes, to deliver 5 kilograms of cocaine to a customer, Gabriel Jerome Smith. During this exchange, officers observed Martinez to be driving a Mitsubishi Montero that agents suspected was being used to smuggle cocaine from Mexico to Houston;
- On September 21, 2005, agents observed the same Mitsubishi Montero crossing into Texas from Mexico at the International Bridge in Brownsville. Agents stopped the Montero and discovered 70 kilograms of cocaine hidden in a false compartment in the Montero. The driver, Jose Antonio Anzaldua was arrested and prosecuted in federal district court in Brownsville.
- On November 30, 2005, agents and officers were conducting surveillance operations in Houston and Beaumont as they prepared to serve Grand Jury indictments on Nunez, Martinez and other defendants. During this surveillance, agents observed Nunez, Martinez and Wilson Lee Payne, Jr. preparing to sell cocaine to Frankie Bannister in Houston. As agents made the arrests, they seized 2 kilograms of cocaine and $30,000.
- On November 30, 2005, agents searched the residence of Manuel Martinez Fuentes at 8107 Glen Valley in Houston. During the search of the residence, agents seized an additional 82 kilograms of cocaine and $66,000.
As this prosecution concludes, 22 defendants were charged and 21 defendants entered pleaded guilty. One defendant failed to appear in court after being released on bond and remains a fugitive. The defendants, the charge of conviction and the sentences assessed are listed below:
Jose Miguel Nunez, 38, Pasadena - conspiracy to distribute cocaine, 292 months in prison;
Manuel Martinez-Fuentes, 58, Houston - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 262 months in prison;
Howard Dwayne Walker, 34, Beaumont - conspiracy to distribute cocaine and "crack" cocaine - 228 months in prison;
Ronald Ray Gary, 28, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime - 170 months in prison;
Wilson Lee Payne, Jr., 30, Houston - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 135 months in prison;
Gregory Gerome Guillory, 41, Houston - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 120 months in prison;
John Willie Cloud, Jr., 33, Beaumont - conspiracy to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine and felon in possession of a firearm - 120 months in prison;
Yongue John Grogan, 31, Beaumont - conspiracy to distribute cocaine and "crack" cocaine - 108 months in prison;
Jetaime Jerone Holland, 29, Port Arthur - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 100 months in prison;
Gabriel Jerome Smith, 35, Houston - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 91 months in prison;
Mark Anthony Lane, 50, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine - 78 months in prison;
Jeremiah Andrew Brown, 25, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine - 74 months in prison;
Michael Anthony Corbin, 29, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine - 70 months in prison;
Calvin Jermaine Johnson, 30, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine - 65 months in prison;
Jason Dewayne Martin, 31, Beaumont - use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime - 48 months in prison;
David Lee Branch, Jr., 34, Beaumont - use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime - 48 months in prison;
Frankie Bannister, 35, Houston - use of a telephone to commit a drug trafficking crime - 48 months in prison;
Ranika Lashun Prince, 28, Beaumont - conspiracy to distribute "crack" cocaine - 43 months in prison;
Danny Ray Williams, Jr., 31, Beaumont - conspiracy to distribute cocaine - 37 months in prison;
Janna Nicole Helmich, 22, Beaumont - possession with intent to distribute "crack" cocaine 24 months in prison;
Marvin Antonio Taylor, 44, Houston - misprison of a felony - 15 months in prison;
In addition to the prison sentences assessed, federal officials are nearing completion of forfeiture proceedings on five parcels of real property in Harris and Brazoria Counties that were either used to facilitate drug trafficking or were acquired with the proceeds of drug trafficking. These properties, which include a residence in Pearland, the Pasadena Boot and Shoe Store in Pasadena, the Spring Drive Apartment in Pasadena and a bar in Houston, and have an estimated value of $1.5 million. The property seizures resulted from an extensive financial investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division. The financial investigation has also resulted in a related money laundering prosecution that is ongoing in Houston.
United States Attorney John L. Ratcliffe praised the investigative effort by federal and local law enforcement agencies, "This investigation is a perfect example of how successful our efforts can be when the talents and particular expertise of our various federal and local law enforcement agencies are blended into a cooperative effort. The fact that all defendants pleaded guilty is an indication of the effectiveness of the investigation by agents and officers in this case." Assistant United States Attorney Robert L. Hobbs echoes these sentiments, "The only thing that stopped the investigators in this case was the international border."
This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, the Internal Revenue Service, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Groves Police Department, Beaumont Police Department, Port Arthur Police Department, Houston Police Department and the Pasadena Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert L. Hobbs.
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