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March 6, 2009

JURY CONVICTS MEXICAN NATIONALS OF COCAINE TRAFFICKING AND MONEY LAUNDERING

(HOUSTON) - After approximately two hours of deliberations, a federal jury has convicted two Mexican nationals of trafficking in cocaine and laundering the proceeds, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. 

Elisa Idalia Castillo, 53, and Martin Ovalle-Martinez, 46, both Mexican nationals residing in Houston, were convicted of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering. Ovalle was also convicted of possessing with intent to distribute cocaine. The jury’s verdicts were announced on Thursday afternoon, March 5, 2009.

Three other defendants charged in this case, David Pacheco, 35, and Israel Torres, 35, both of Houston, and Alberto Abel Martinez, 51, of Rosenberg, Texas, pleaded guilty in advance of trial to federal drug charges and are pending sentencing.

Trial began on Monday, March 6, 2009. Evidence elicited at trial proved that Castillo and Ovalle worked for an organization based in Monterrey, Mexico, responsible for the transportation and distribution of cocaine to Houston and the return of the proceeds to Monterrey. Between Jan. 1, 2006, and March 20, 2008, approximately $2.2 million and more than 1000 kilograms of cocaine were seized from tour buses operating in Texas and Mexico.

The organization used Mexican tour buses to transport cocaine to Houston and to transport cocaine proceeds to Monterrey. The cocaine/money would be hidden in the buses, usually in a hidden compartment created in the gas tank. Upon the morning arrival of the buses in Houston, the few legitimate passengers would be offloaded at a depot on the 500 block of Wayside in Houston. The buses then traveled to a warehouse to offload the cocaine which was distributed to various distributors throughout the day. Proceeds of the cocaine sales were delivered to the warehouse or picked up nearby. By that evening, the collected proceeds would be loaded into the hidden compartment in the bus. The bus would then drive back to the depot where the few legitimate passengers would be loaded before departing for Monterrey.

Castillo was in charge of the bus depot in Houston and all the buses seized were leased and insured by her. Ovalle was one of the driver's of the buses that contained cocaine and cocaine proceeds, including the seizure of approximately 240 kilograms of cocaine on May 23, 2006, at the Laredo, Texas, Port of Entry.

Castillo and Ovalle have been in federal custody without bond since their arrests in May 2008 and will remain in custody pending a sentencing hearing set for May 7, 2009. Both Castillo and Ovalle face no less than 10 years and no more than life imprisonment without parole as punishment for the drug counts of conviction. They both also face up to 20 years in prison for the money laundering count of conviction.

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as by officers of the Pasadena Drug Task Force as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force effort. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Peter Mason.

 

 

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