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Oct. 22, 2010

LAST TWO OF GROUP CONVICTED OF USING US MAIL TO SHIP MARIJUANA SENTENCED TO PRISON

(McALLEN, Texas) – The last two of six men convicted of using the U.S. Postal Service as their personal marijuana shipper have been sentenced to federal prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Tomas Silva Jr., 33, of Alton, Texas, and Concepcion Gonzalez Jr., 39, of Mission, Texas, who pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to distribute marijuana through the United States Mail, were sentenced to 46 months and 36 months in prison, respectively, by Chief United States District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa late this afternoon. Four others convicted following guilty pleas for their involvement with Silva and Gonzalez in this drug distribution scheme - Leopold Perales-Rodriguez, 42, Juan Carlos Hernandez, 22, Victor Hugo Mares, 27, and Margarito Gallardo, 46 - all illegally residing in Mission - were sentenced in August to terms ranging from 27 to 42 months and are presently serving their sentences.  

Silva and Gonzalez, along with their four co-conspirators, shipped parcels containing marijuana using the U.S. Mail from May 2008 to August 2009. Silva and Gonzalez helped the other co-defendants obtain and package the marijuana as well as received payments for their shipment. The roles of these men in this criminal enterprise and their respective criminal histories were considered by the court in determining the sentences handed down today.

Co-defendants Perales-Rodriguez, Hernandez and Mares mailed parcels on a continual basis for at least one year beginning in or about May 2008. Gallardo mailed parcels and cashed money orders sent via the postal system as payments for the mailing of the marijuana. Perales-Rodriguez, both a mailer and recruiter from August 2008 until his May 2009 arrest, was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment. Hernandez, whose involvement in the conspiracy began in March 2009 and ended with his arrest two months later in May 2009, was sentenced to a 27-month prison term. Mares, who like Perales-Rodriguez had been involved in the conspiracy since 2008 and recruited one other person, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.  Lastly, Gallardo, who joined the conspiracy in January 2009, was sentenced to 30 months incarceration. Because each is illegally in the United States, each faces deportation upon completion of their prison term.

The identification of these men was the result of a continuing drug interdiction program in McAllen by United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) inspectors. Through physical and video surveillance and the execution of search warrants, USPIS inspectors determined this group and its various members were responsible for mailing parcels containing marijuana from various post offices throughout the Rio Grande Valley since May 2008. The parcels were similarly packaged and contained raw beans, sealed in the cap of a can of spray foam to create a rattling sound and wrapped in thick plastic. Later, mustard, salt and pepper were added to the cellophane around the marijuana to serve as masking agents. The packages were destined for various points throughout the United States, principally Connecticut, Puerto Rico, New York and Florida. Overall, the USPIS inspectors developed evidence showing this group of six men was responsible for shipping in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana through the postal system during the one-year-period they were under investigation. Inspectors actually seized approximately 500 kilograms of marijuana shipped. 
 
Gonzalez has been in custody since July 2009 on state drug charges for which he has been convicted and sentenced to two years incarceration in a state prison facility. Additionally, while serving the sentence on the state drug conviction, Gonzalez will concurrently serve a two-year prison term imposed by the state court after revocation of his parole imposed on a previous drug trafficking conviction. Chief Judge Hinojosa has ordered that Gonzalez’s federal sentence be served concurrent with his state prison sentences. 

Silva has been in federal custody since his June 19, 2010, arrest by postal inspectors. He will remain in custody to serve his sentence.  

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 USPIS 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 case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Patricia Rigney.

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