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April 30, 2009

LEADER OF LAREDO’S PISTOLERO PRISON/STREET GANG CONVICTED OF COCAINE TRAFFICKING AND LAUNDERING MILLIONS IN DRUG PROCEEDS

(HOUSTON) – Pedro Gil III, 37, aka Master P, aka PG, aka Carwash, the reputed leader of the Laredo faction of the La Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos (Brotherhood of the Latin Gunmen) (HPL) prison and street gang, has pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and to laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds complicit with HPL members or associates, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.

According to the terms of the plea agreement, Gil will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 25 years imprisonment, without parole, followed by five-year-term of supervised release. As part of the plea agreement, Gil will forfeit all interest in real and personal property deemed to have been acquired by Gil with drug proceeds as well as deemed to have been used to facilitate the crimes for which he was charged. Judge Lake has set Gil’s sentencing for Sept. 21, 2009. Gil has been in federal custody without bond since his arrest on May 30, 2008, and will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing.

On May 28, 2008, Gil, along with 23 members or associates of the HPL were charged in a 12-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury for their alleged involvement in receiving kilogram quantities of cocaine smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, storing the contraband in Laredo area stash houses and transporting and distributing the cocaine to HPL members and associates in Houston beginning in 2001. Gil was also among the 12 HPL members and associates who were charged with collecting and laundering millions of dollars generated by the sale of the cocaine beginning in July 2007. The proceeds were allegedly used to promote the HPL's illegal activity through the rental or purchases of apartments, hotel rooms and residences to stash, store or package cocaine, vehicles and cellular telephones or to conceal the source of the proceeds through the deposit of cash into personal bank accounts in Laredo and in amounts designed to avoid currency transaction reports. Millions of dollars were deposited and withdrawn from the personal bank accounts in Laredo for these purposes as well as personal use by HPL members, according to court documents. 

“This case presents an important step toward dismantling of this cell of the HPL and a disruption of the violent and drug trafficking activities of this gang,” Johnson said. “This prosecution is an example of the effective use of a collective law enforcement effort to combat gangs.” 

Gil’s arrest on May 30, 2008, came after the conclusion of two four-year-long joint Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigations -dubbed Operations Pistol Whipped and Operation Smoking Gun, conducted by Laredo and Houston area law enforcement agencies which included special agents of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division (IRS-CI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and officers of the Laredo and Houston Police Department, Webb and Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Pasadena Police Department, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department, Beeville Police Department, the Victoria County Sheriff’s Department and the Laredo High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force.  

The HPL gang was formed in the mid 1980s in the Texas prison system by Latino inmates. Membership in the gang is displayed by tattoos including a .45 caliber handgun along the waistline, the letters HPL or objects in the shape of HPL. The gang makes its money through the sale and distribution of illegal drugs through Texas including Houston, Victoria and Laredo. A highly organized group with specific rules and regulations mandating lifetime membership, loyalty and participation in the criminal activities of the organization and a decision making hierarchy, the HPL structure also provides for each city and prison to have its own leadership structure and some autonomy from the statewide organization.

At a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Sim Lake, Gil admitted that beginning in 2001 and continuing to through May 28, 2008, he supplied and directed other HPL members, prospects and associates to supply more than 150 kilograms of cocaine to HPL members in Houston and others throughout Texas and elsewhere. Beginning in May 2003, Gil agreed to and with the assistance of HPL gang members and associates did supply the Houston HPL multi-kilograms of cocaine at a price of $14,500 per kilogram.

Gil operated out of Laredo, Texas, and illegally imported cocaine from Mexico for shipment to Houston and elsewhere. Gil directed HPL gang members, prospects and associates to procure, store, transport and deliver cocaine to Houston area HPL members. The cash proceeds from the sales were then transported back to Gil in Laredo. During the course of the conspiracy more than $6 million in cash was transported from the Houston area and elsewhere to Laredo for delivery to Gil. More than $2 million in drug proceeds were deposited in numerous bank accounts in the names of Gil’s family members. The bank accounts were in the names of  Pedro Gil’s wife, Alma Gil, his mother in law Maria D. Padilla Ancira and his housekeeper Lorena Garcia Hernandez. The three women were also charged in this indictment and have all pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. The proceeds were used to purchase more cocaine and other items for use in furtherance of the drug trafficking including residences and automobiles and also personal luxury items including expensive diamond jewelry.

In addition to the 25-year prison term, Gil will also forfeit his interest in $6 million and several pieces of real estate in Laredo, Texas, including a commercial lot located at 2328 Jacaman Road with an estimated value of $500,000, a residence located at 305 Lake Louise with an estimated value of $556,000, a four-unit apartment complex located at 603 Lane with an estimated value of $200,000, an eight-unit apartment complex located at 318 Bustamante with an estimated value of $400,000 and a 160-acre ranch located in Dimmit County with an estimated value of $250,000. In addition, Gil will also forfeit his interest in personal property which included a cache of gold and diamond jewelry and wathces seized immediately following his arrest including a 2007 Mercedes Benz, two 2007 Cadillac Escalades, several newer model pickup trucks and a 2008 Nissan Maxima with a combined value of $316,000. Gil will also forfeit his interest in an assortment of men’s and ladies diamond jewelry with a combined value of $145,000 as well as several  men’s watches to include three Rolex watches with a combined value of $69,000. The United States also seized from Gil’s household a DeBeers hourglass valued at $25,000, and more than $4.5 million in cash stashed in four suitcases tied to Gil.  

Gil’s plea marks the 23rd defendant to plead guilty to various charges in the indictment. Others who preceeded Gil in pleading guilty included his Laredo associates Daniel Avila, aka Danny, Roberto Sanchez, aka Camaron; Benjamin Lean, aka Benny, aka Primo; Raul Garcia aka Flaco; Alma Gil, aka Alma Ancira; Lorena Garcia Hernandez and Maria D. Padilla Ancira. Co-conspirators from the Houston and surrounding area who have also pleaded guilty include Mark Barrera; Christopher Castaneda, aka PJ; Marino Duran; Juan Manuel Hernandez, aka Meme; Albert Lerma, aka Gas; Joe Brian Martinez, aka Turtle; Robert Luis Narvaez, aka Tato; Roberto Navarrette Jr.; Marvyn Ramdeen, aka Black, aka Marv; Juan Jose Ramirez, aka T-Bone; Eric Lee Rodriguez, aka Buckwheat; Terrance Robinson, aka Monster; Pacino San Miguel, aka P, aka Pedro; Mark Urdialez; and Brian Michael Washington. All are pending sentencing.

The remaining defendant, Manuel Bernard Harris is scheduled for jury selection on June 22, 2009, and is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tim S. Braley of the Houston office and Mary Lou Castillo of the Laredo office.

 

 

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