May 7, 2009
SECOND GROUP NABBED FOR ALLEGEDLY SENDING PARCELS OF MARIJUANA THROUGH U.S. MAIL
(MCALLEN, Texas) – For the second time this week, inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) have arrested several McAllen area men allegedly involved in mailing packages containing marijuana through the U.S. Mail system, acting United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.
Jose Adan Lopez, 20, Ernesto Damian Caballaro, 23, and Heriberto Emmanuel Vera, 32, all residents of McAllen, Texas, were arrested on Wednesday, May 6, 2009, and today charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 147 kilograms of marijuana since January 2009 and the use of a communication facility to move drugs. All three defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos on May 7, 2009, and have been temporarily detained without bond pending a preliminary and detention hearings on Monday, May 11, 2009.
According to the allegations in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint today, through its continuous drug interdiction program in McAllen, Texas, in March 2008, USPIS inspectors discovered similarly wrapped parcels containing marijuana in the U.S. Mail and initiated an investigation to identify members of the group believed to be involved with mailing the parcels. The parcels, themselves, were similarly packaged. The marijuana, wrapped in cellophane, was surrounded by dried chili peppers as a masking agent. Later, the parcels would also contain fiberglass insulation, along with the chili peppers in a further attempt to mask the odor of marijuana.
Through physical and video surveillance and the execution of search warrants, postal inspectors determined that since March 2008, the group and its various members were allegedly responsible for mailing more than 1,000 pounds of marijuana primarily from the Progreso, Texas, post office. The packages were destined for various addresses throughout the United States from the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) to the South (North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia).
On Monday, May 4, 2009, in a separate and unrelated case, USPIS inspectors arrested five of seven area residents also allegedly involved in sending kilogram quantities of marijuana through the U.S. Mail. Criminal charges were filed on May 5 and May 6 against these seven. Two remain fugitives.
This case represents the increasing efforts by U.S. Postal Inspectors to protect the U.S. Mail from criminal misuse in South Texas. The USPIS is focusing on drug traffickers that attempt to use the mail to distribute illegal narcotics out of the Rio Grande Valley. 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 investigation leading to these charges was conducted by the USPIS. Assistant United States Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Patricia Rigney will prosecute the case.
A criminal complaint is merely an accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
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