May 5, 2009
U.S. POSTAL INSPECTORS NAB FOUR AND CHARGE SIX FOR SENDING PARCELS OF MARIJUANA THROUGH U.S. MAIL
(MCALLEN, Texas) – A 10-month investigation by inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has lead to the filing of criminal charges against six area residents for allegedly mailing more than 200 packages containing marijuana through the U.S. Mail system, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.
As a result of the extensive investigative efforts of USPIS inspectors, Leopoldo Rodriguez, 41, of Mission, Texas; Juan Carlos Hernandez, 21, of Mission, Texas; Victor Hugo Mares, 25, of Mission, Texas; and Angel Margarito Gallardo, 22, of Mission, Texas, were arrested on Monday, May 4, 2009, and charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 188 kilograms of marijuana in the last 10 months and the use of a communication facility to move drugs for their alleged involvement in the mailing of parcels containing marijuana through the U.S. Mail. All four defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos and have been ordered to remain in custody without bond pending a preliminary and detention hearings on Friday, May 8.
Arrests warrants remain outstanding for the arrest of Concepcion Gonzalez, 37, of Mission, Texas, and Roman Vasquez-Mendez, 29, also of Mission, Texas, who are also named in the criminal complaint. The investigation continues and today, a seventh person allegedly involved in this group, Margarito Gallardo, 45, was arrested by postal inspectors. Charges against Gallardo are pending. He is expected to make an initial appearance before Judge Ramos on Wednesday, May 6.
According to the allegations in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint today, through its continuous drug interdiction program in McAllen, Texas, U.S. Postal Inspectors discovered parcels containing marijuana and began the process of identifying members of a group of persons believed to be involved in mailing parcels containing marijuana through the mail system in August 2008. The parcels, themselves, were similarly packaged and contained raw beans, sealed in the cap of a can of spray foam to create a rattling sound. Additionally, the packages were found to contain expandable foam and marijuana wrapped in thick plastic. Later, the packaging changed to contain mustard, salt and pepper placed in the cellophane as masking agents around the marijuana.
Through physical and video surveillance and the execution of search warrants, postal inspectors determined the group and its various members were allegedly responsible for mailing approximately 234 parcels containing more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana from various post offices throughout the Rio Grande Valley since May 2008. The packages were destined to various addresses throughout the United States with most of the packages being sent to Connecticut, Puerto Rico, New York and Florida. All of these parcels - all containing marijuana - were seized by inspectors.
U.S. Postal Inspectors are increasing their efforts to protect the U.S. Mail from criminal misuse in South Texas. Specifically, USPIS is focusing on drug traffickers that attempt to use the mail to distribute illegal narcotics out of the Rio Grande Valley, which is a violation of federal law. Along with agents from the Hidalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force and the Department of Public Safety narcotics unit, postal inspectors are aggressively investigating to identify and arrest persons engaged in the mailing of narcotics.
Anyone having information about persons responsible for mailing narcotics is encouraged to contact the local Postal Inspector's office at 956/971-1721. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will pay up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals who use the U.S. Mail to distribute narcotics.
The charged drug offense carries a statutory penalty of no less than five up to 40 years in federal prison and a $2 million fine. The use of a communication facility to move narcotics carries a maximum penalty of four years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being investigated by USPIS. Prosecution will be handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Patricia Rigney.
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