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March 30, 2009

THIRD OROPEZA FAMILY MEMBER SENTENCED TO PRISON

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - Oscar Oropeza, 47, of Brownsville, has been sentenced to prison for trafficking in Marijuana and money laundering, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Oropeza owns several businesses in Brownsville and Harlingen operated under the Green Wealth Group. 

Oropeza and his wife, Tina Marie Oropeza, 47, were arrested in Saraland, Ala., after 84 kilograms of cocaine was discovered hidden in their van during a traffic stop. The Alabama case was transferred to the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas. Oropeza, his wife and their daughter, Paulina Marie, 25, were indicted in June 2007 and charged with conspiracy to possess marijuana and cocaine and conspiracy to launder money. The indictment also contained a forfeiture notice wherein the government sought to forfeit $5,000,000 as drug proceeds and several properties titled to Green Wealth Group operating as Valley Home and Garden located in Harlingen and ProTouch Carwash and Gold Weight Trucking located in Brownsville. 

On May 31, 2007, Oscar Oropeza and his wife traveled in a green van through Saraland, Ala. Officers discovered approximately 84 kilograms of cocaine within a hidden compartment following a traffic stop and were arrested. By that time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents had already been investigating the Oropezas for narcotics smuggling and money laundering. Agents had information they were smuggling narcotics since at least 2002 from the Brownsville area to Alabama and Florida. Oscar Oropeza had been delivering multi-kilogram loads of marijuana and cocaine every two to three weeks using his green van with a false compartment. Once the drugs were sold, the cash proceeds were given to Oscar Oropeza.

During their investigation, ICE agents obtained the financial records for all four of the Oropezas and the businesses. Records for this time period, revealed numerous cash bank deposits into personal family and business accounts and numerous cash transactions and purchases. Agents learned Tina Marie and Paulina Marie were at various banks two to three times weekly and, on many occasions, several times a day. They made cash deposits just under $10,000 into personal and business accounts with $1.28 million deposited in 2006-2007 alone. The large deposits were generally $20 bills bundled in large stacks with an unusual scent. Records during this period show extravagant cash expenditures by the Oropezas of jewelry, real property, vehicles, etc. 

Agents also learned the marijuana and cocaine would be placed in the van’s hidden compartments in Matamoros, Mexico, and then driven across the bridge into Brownsville by another family member. Oscar would collect approximately $700,000 to $1,000,000 per trip after the delivery and would be paid $1,300 per kilogram transported. Up to approximately $5,000,000 had been obtained by the Oropezas as narcotics proceeds during the conspiracy.

Oropeza pleaded guilty to drug and money laundering charges in April 3, 2008. Today, Judge Hanen sentenced Oropeza to concurrent terms of 180 months for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine, 180 months for possession with intent to distribute 84 kilograms of cocaine and 180 months for the conspiracy to launder money. In addition, Judge Hanen ordered a forfeiture judgment in favor of the government on the real estate where the businesses were formerly located.

Tina Marie Oropeza and daughter Paulina Marie pleaded guilty in March 2008 before U.S. Judge Andrew Hanen and were sentenced in November 2008. Tina Marie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and was sentenced to a five-year-term of probation with 10 months imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. Paulina Marie pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and was sentenced to a five-year-term of probation with six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Judge Hanen ordered them to commence their prison terms in January 2009. Charges filed against the Oropeza’s son, Juan Pablo, 23, were dismissed.  

This investigation was conducted by ICE and prosecuted by AUSA Oscar Ponce, Sue Kempner and Paula Offenhauser.

 

 

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