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Jan. 14, 2009


(McALLEN, Texas) – Three Mexican nationals, formerly residing in Roma and Laredo, Texas, were sentenced to federal prison on Jan. 13, 2009, for conspiring to launder drug money, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Pedro Valencia-Zepeda, 39, and Miguel Valencia-Zepeda, 48, both former residents of Roma, were sentenced to 108 months and 97 months imprisonment, respectively, for conspiring to launder drug money and trafficking marijuana convictions, while Armando Torres-Cisneros, 44, formerly a resident of Laredo, received 57 months for his money laundering conspiracy conviction.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, called Operation Los Fantoches, leading to the criminal charges was conducted by agents of the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI). The investigation began in 2000 and continued through April 2006 leading to a 10 count superseding indictment returned on Oct. 24, 2006, charging the men with various drug trafficking and money laundering counts. 

On March 30, 2007, all three defendants pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Pedro Valencia-Zepeda and Miguel Valencia-Zepeda also pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana. 

Brothers, Pedro Valencia-Zepeda and Miguel Valencia-Zepeda, and Armando Torres-Cisneros were all members of a large marijuana distribution network which operated from Mexico into the United States as far as Fitchburg, Mass. The marijuana was transported north in shipments of 400 to 500 pounds. The proceeds of the marijuana distribution were transported south from various locations including Houston, Texas, Atlanta, Ga., and Fitchburg to the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas where they were turned over to either Pedro Valencia-Zepeda or another individual. During 2005 alone, the organization generated and laundered in excess of $500,000. Shortly after the arrests of Pedro and Miguel Valencia-Zepeda on April 20, 2006, the FBI searched a residence in Roma utilized as a stash location by the Valencia-Zepedas and recovered approximately 959 kilograms of marijuana.

Assistant United States Attorney Toni Trevino is prosecuting the case.


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