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Sept. 9, 2010

LAST TWO OF EIGHT CHARGED IN ATTEMPTED CARJACKING OF OFF DUTY BP AGENT CONVICTED

(MCALLEN, Texas) – The last two of eight defendants charged with the attempted carjacking of an off duty Border Patrol agent have been convicted of attempted carjacking on the eve of trial, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Jose Antonio Armendariz, 27, of Penitas, Texas, and Maria Teresa De La Rosa, 28, of McAllen, Texas, each set to begin jury selection on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010, pleaded guilty instead to attempted carjacking. Armendariz also pleaded guilty to the related charge of using a firearm during and in relation of the carjacking and to hostage taking arising from a separate incident. Each entered their respective guilty pleas before United States District Judge Randy Crane

Armendariz, also known as “El Commandante” according to allegations in a criminal complaint filed in the case, and De La Rosa admitted to their respective involvement in the June 2009 attempted carjacking of an off duty Border Patrol agent traveling with his minor daughter to Mission, Texas, from Arizona. 

According to the record of the case, on June 23, 2009, Claudia Elena Gomez Aguilar, 28, of Tamaulipas, Mexico, a card reader and Santisima Muerte worshipper, was contacted by a drug money courier who asked Gomez to pray for her as she traveled from Michigan to the Rio Grande Valley with a large sum of money. Instead, Gomez told De La Rosa and Juan Vite Martinez, 40, of Hidalgo, Mexico, about the trip and asked if they knew anyone willing to rob the courier and split the money with her.  Martinez offered the name of “El Commandante,” Jose Antonio Armendariz. 

Armed with the make and model of the car the courier would be driving – a gray Cadillac – Martinez contacted Armendariz who agreed to get people together for the carjacking. Later the same day, Gomez, Martinez and  De La Rosa met with Armendariz and others at Gomez’s residence. After messages from the drug money courier during the early morning hours of June 24th confirmed that the courier was near, the defendants, in four separate trucks, awaited the arrival of the gray Cadillac along Highway 281. Armendariz drove a red truck. In a blue truck rode Nieves Rogelio Ramirez, 27, of Sullivan City, Texas, and Dagoberto Navarro Pompa, 26, of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Gomez, Martinez and De La Rosa rode in Gomez’s red truck. Jose Wenceslado Mejia, 20, of Rio Grande City, Texas, drove a red and black truck and Jose Concepcion Hernandez, also known as “El Mazapan,” 31, of Edinburg, Texas, drove in a white truck. Both the red trucks and the blue truck began following a gray Cadillac they thought was being driven by the courier for several miles. In actuality,  they were following a Cadillac driven by an off-duty Border Patrol agent traveling with his young daughter. The trucks continued, following the agent, until the blue truck driven by Ramirez blocked it at an intersection in Cimarron just west of Shary Road.

At the intersection, the blue truck prevented the agent from leaving. Pompa, the passenger, got out of the truck armed with a gun, knocked on the driver’s window of the agent’s car while brandishing his firearm. In response, the agent displayed his duty weapon by resting it on his chest. Seeing the weapon, Pompa ran back to the blue truck. The agent drove away from the scene and called 911. The blue truck pursued the agent and ultimately fired multiple shots at the agent’s vehicle two of which actually struck the front windshield area of the vehicle. Both the agent and his daughter were unharmed. 

In response to the agent’s call to 911, Mission Police Department were dispatched and met with the agent who relayed what had occurred as well as license plate numbers to the blue truck and the description of the other vehicles involved in following him. As a result of the information provided, the investigation ultimately resulted in the identification and arrest of all involved in the carjacking attempt on the agent and his daughter, the recovery of the firearm used, as well as confessions from several of the defendants.       

Gomez, Martinez, Mejia, Ramirez, Pompa and Hernandez pleaded guilty earlier this year to the attempted carjacking as well as the related firearm charge. Each remains in custody without bond pending sentencing in late September. The carjacking conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. The firearms conviction carries a mandatory sentence of no less than 10 years which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on the underlying carjacking conviction.  Each of the two counts of conviction also carry a maximum fine of $250,000.  

In addition to the conviction relating to the carjacking, Armendariz also pleaded guilty today to an unrelated charge of hostage taking. Armendariz admitted to having taken an area rancher hostage in November 2006 and directing others to detain him and threaten to kill the rancher if his daughter did not pay $200,000. After a ransom of $150,000 was paid to the defendant and his co-conspirators, the rancher was safely released.

Armendariz, who has been in federal custody since his January 2010 arrest, faces a maximum of life imprisonment for the hostage taking conviction as well as an additional fine of up to $250,000.
 
The investigation leading to the charges against Armendariz, De La Rosa and the other defendants charged in this case was conducted by FBI and FBI Safe Street Task Force with the assistance of the Mission Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Casey MacDonald are prosecuting the case.

 

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