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Feb. 26, 2009

OPERATION URBAN COWBOY CONCLUDES WITH SENTENCING OF LAST DEFENDANT – THE DEALER’S WIFE

(HOUSTON) – Cynthia Ann Nunez, 30, the wife of Jose Miguel Nunez, 39, a major importer and distributor of cocaine throughout Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and North Carolina, has been sentenced for her role in structuring a financial transaction to conceal the nature and source of her husband’s drug proceeds, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. She is the last of six defendants convicted in Operation Urban Cowboy, a joint financial investigation led by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which tracked the profits and financial gains generated by the sale of cocaine by Jose Miguel Nunez between 2001 and 2005. Jose Nunez pleaded guilty to and was convicted of conspiring to commit money laundering. He was sentenced to 92 months in federal prison in late January 2009. This sentence will be served concurrently with a 292-month prison sentence imposed in August 2007 in the Eastern District of Texas following his October 2006 conviction for conspiracy to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine. 

Jose Nunez was the source of supply of cocaine for a group of drug dealers operating in the Beaumont, Texas area. The drug charges against Jose Nunez filed in the Eastern District of Texas and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in that district were the result of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Operation Snow Duck which targeted and resulted in the conviction of 21 defendants and concluded in August 2007. The IRS-CI worked alongside several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the DEA-led Operation Snow Duck.

Operation Urban Cowboy followed the trail of the money generated by Nunez’s drug dealing in and around the Houston/Beaumont area. The 27-month investigation discovered that Jose Nunez used more than $1,000,000 in proceeds of his illicit business to buy seven properties in Harris and Brazoria counties. Those properties, which have been forfeited to the United States, include the Pasadena Boot and Shoe Store located on the 2700 block of South Shaver and the Spring Drive Apartments in Pasadena, Texas, both of which were used by Nunez to further his drug dealing business, a Houston bar and a residence for himself and his family located on the 3800 block of Buckholt and two adjacent undeveloped lots located in Pearland. 

This thorough and lengthy investigation also lead to the indictment and subsequent conviction of Jose Nunez and Irene Botello, 73, the owner of Baytex Mortgage and Investment Inc., for their roles in the conspiracy to launder the drug proceeds of Jose Nunez, the indictment and conviction Cynthia Ann Nunez for her role in structuring a $10,000 financial transaction immediately prior to title closing on the residence located on Buckholt, the indictment and conviction of Danny Wright of Noble Custom Builders located in Galveston County for his role in falsifying documents at closing with the title company involved in processing the sale and purchase of the Buckholt residence, as well as three others for permitting their bank accounts to be used to disguise the source of the money. 

“IRS-CI plays a unique role in federal law enforcement’s counter-drug efforts by targeting the profits and financial gains of narcotics traffickers,” said Rodney E. Clarke, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI. “IRS-CI has the financial investigators and expertise that is critical to locating the money and to prosecute the offenders.”

Through their financial investigation, IRS-CI agents uncovered a scheme employed by Jose Nunez and Irene Botello in which Botello would act as the agent for Jose and Cynthia Nunez for real estate transactions, including the purchase of the Nunez’s family residence on Buckholt. Botello, through her company, used illegal drug proceeds provided by Jose Nunez to buy or to orchestrate the purchase of hundreds of money orders in varying amounts from multiple locations in and around the Houston area. These money orders and cash, totaling more than $770,000, were deposited into and subsequently withdrawn from her own bank account or the accounts of others to purchase cashier’s checks from several banks in the Houston and Galveston area, as well as to transact business with title companies in order to complete the real estate purchases desired by the Nunez family.  

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake sentenced Cynthia Nunez, of Pasadena, to six months home confinement and three years probation for structuring a financial transaction to evade or avoid IRS reporting requirements. Cynthia Nunez pleaded guilty in November 2008 to the federal felony offense, admitting she delivered $10,000 cash to Danny Wright, the homebuilder, as directed by her husband, Jose Nunez, so Danny Wright could deposit the cash into his bank account in a manner that would not require any IRS reports be generated by the bank involved. 

Botello was sentenced in January 2009 to six months in federal prison to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. Three others charged in this case, who permitted their bank accounts to be used to structure financial transactions, have also pleaded guilty, stand convicted and have been sentenced to probationary terms ranging from one year to three years. The home builder, Danny Wright, was convicted of fraud and sentenced to one year probation.

Operation Urban Cowboy is a joint OCDETF investigation lead by IRS-CI and DEA, respectively. Other agencies, facilitating the success of the investigation and prosecution, were the Houston Police Department, the Harris County Sheriff’s office, the Pasadena Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Dies.

 

 

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