June 26, 2009
DRUG TRAFFICKING, MONEY LAUNDERING AND LOAN FRAUD RESULTS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR EIGHT LOCAL RESIDENTS
(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) – Nine people from Corpus Christi have been sentenced on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, money laundering and loan fraud, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. United States District Judge Janis Graham Jack handed down the sentences of Noe Espinosa, 38, Josue Espinosa, 42, along with Federico Flores, 66, Rosa Salinas, 41, Jose Salinas, 46, Richard Figueroa, 41, Miguel Ramos, 35, and Michael Cruz, 27, today in federal court in Corpus Christi. Jessica Franco, 42, was sentenced earlier in the week.
These defendants were convicted for their involvement in a cocaine conspiracy in which individuals were employed to cross the U.S./Mexico border with vehicles loaded with cocaine and to transport the cocaine to Corpus Christi. There were at least 81 kilograms of cocaine seized by law enforcement since 2005 which were directly attributable to this organization.
Noe Espinosa, the leader of this drug smuggling organization, employed people to transport cocaine and launder the proceeds of the drug sales. Josue Espinosa, Noe’s brother, was employed to help transport cocaine and to launder the drug proceeds. Flores was specifically employed as a driver who transported vehicles loaded with cocaine across the border. Jose Salinas, Figueroa and Ramos all helped in the trafficking of this organization’s cocaine in various ways to include driving, creating/locating secret compartments in the vehicle and conducting counter-surveillance of the loaded vehicles as they passed the border and checkpoints. Each of these defendants is currently in custody.
Noe Espinosa, Josue Espinosa, Flores, Jose Salinas, Figueroa and Ramos were all convicted and sentenced for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine. Noe Espinosa was sentenced to 210 months imprisonment without parole. Josue Espinosa was sentenced to 94 months, while Flores, Jose Salinas, Figueroa and Ramos received 120, 135, 64, and 100 months, respectively.
Noe Espinosa was also significantly involved in money laundering activities through numerous vehicle purchases and real properties. Rosa Salinas was convicted of conspiring to launder monetary instruments and was sentenced to 87 months confinement in the Bureau of Prisons. Cruz was convicted of making a false statement to a bank and received time served and a term of two years supervised release as his sentence. Franco, previously a senior loan officer at Navy Army Federal Credit Union, was sentenced on Wednesday of this week to probation for aiding and abetting loan fraud. Champion Chevrolet local car salesman Rene Hernandez, 32, also convicted for his role in this organization is set for sentencing at a later date.
All of the defendants were arrested by investigating agents in December 2008 following the return of an indictment on Nov. 20, 2008.
In addition to handing down the sentences, Judge Jack ordered the criminal forfeiture of four separate real properties utilized by the group to the United States. The four properties - 5133 Cain Drive, 5442 Cain Drive, 117 E. Vanderbilt Street and 102 E. Vanderbilt Street - are located in Corpus Christi.
The investigation leading to the criminal convictions was conducted through a multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force including agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the United States Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and officers of the Corpus Christi Police Department and the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Julie Hampton.
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