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June 22, 2010

FINAL DEFENDANT SENTENCED FOR COCAINE DISTRIBUTION

(McALLEN, Texas) - Four men who were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute approximately 226  kilograms of cocaine, have been sentenced to several years in prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa sentenced Rodrigo Martinez, 42, of Pharr, Texas, to 140 months in federal prison to be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release at a hearing held today in federal court. Martinez pleaded guilty to the federal drug trafficking felony offense on March 5, 2007. The three co-defendants, Juan Morales-Iracheta, 40, Raul Edilberto Cabrales-Salas, 29, and Mariano Hernandez, 48, all of Mexico, were sentenced for the same conduct on March 5, 2010. Morales-Iracheta was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. Cabrales-Salas and Hernandez were each sentenced to 87 months in federal prison to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. All four defendants have been in federal custody since their Nov. 7, 2006, arrest and will remain in custody to serve their sentence.

On Nov. 7, 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents initiated surveillance at the Silver Spur truck stop in Pharr, Texas, after they received information that a tractor trailer would be used to transport cocaine outside of the Rio Grande Valley. During surveillance, ICE agents identified the tractor trailer and followed it as it departed the location and traveled to a residence in McAllen, Texas. Agents observed the back doors of the trailer being opened and approximately 30 minutes later, the doors were shut and the tractor trailer was seen leaving the location. A gray van was also at the residence and was seen leaving at the same time that the tractor trailer left the residence. A traffic stop was initiated on the gray van and the two passengers were identified as Cabrales-Salas and Morales-Iracheta. ICE agents also detained Hernandez who was discovered at the Silver Spur truck stop after being seen with the tractor trailer earlier that evening. ICE agents attempted to stop the tractor trailer; however, the driver refused to stop and managed to avoid detection after he ran inside La Plaza mall. The driver, later identified as Martinez, turned himself over to law enforcement the following day. Agents searched the tractor trailer and discovered approximately 226 kilograms of cocaine inside the trailer. Morales-Iracheta and Cabrales-Salas later admitted their roles in the conspiracy were to load the cocaine into the vehicle. Hernandez admitted he was hired to help deliver the cocaine to North Carolina, while Martinez admitted he was hired to drive the tractor trailer to the McAllen residence where the cocaine would be loaded into the trailer.

The case was investigated by ICE and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Wells Jr.

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