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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGELA DODGE

Aug. 17, 2011

PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER
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Penitas Man Sentenced to Life Imprisonment Plus 30 Years for Carjacking and Firearms Convictions

McALLEN, Texas – Jose Antonio Armendariz, 27, last known to reside in Penitas, Texas, has been sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years for the 2006 hostage taking of a local rancher, two 2006 carjackings and the 2009 attempted carjacking of an off duty Border Patrol (BP) agent, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Earlier this afternoon U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Armendariz to 15 years for each of the three carjacking convictions to run concurrent with a life sentence for his role in the hostage taking of a local rancher conviction. The 30-year consecutive term is the total of 10 years imprisonment for each of the three separate firearm convictions.

Armendariz, aka “El Commandante,” was found guilty by a jury on May 19, 2011, after a two-week trial. During the eight-day trial, the jury heard testimony from multiple cooperators, federal agents, local law enforcement officers and the four victims of the offenses of which Armendariz was convicted. The evidence showed, among other things, that Armendariz masterminded the hostage taking of a local rancher in November 2006. In preparation for the commission of the hostage taking, Armendariz and four accomplices carjacked two vehicles during which Armendariz’s accomplices threatened the victims with a firearm. Shortly after the second carjacking, four of Armendariz’s accomplices took a local rancher at gunpoint and Armendariz negotiated the $200,000 ransom that was eventually paid by the rancher’s family.

The jury also heard testimony of Armendariz’s involvement in the 2009 attempted carjacking of an off duty BP agent. The evidence showed that Armendariz and at least seven accomplices planned to steal a vehicle at gunpoint that supposedly had a large amount of cash concealed within. 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.” 

Armendariz, tasked with scouting US Highway 281 to look out for the vehicle, misidentified and attempted to steal the wrong vehicle. This vehicle actually belonged to an off duty BP agent who was traveling with his young daughter. The agent and daughter were able to escape, but not before one of the assailants fired a shot that struck the agent’s vehicle. Both the agent and his daughter were unharmed. 

Nieves Rogelio Ramirez, 27, of Sullivan City, Texas; Jose Concepcion Hernandez, aka “El Mazapan,” 31, of Edinburg, Texas; along with Gomez and Martinez were sentenced in June of this year to 72 months, 84 months, 60 months and 96 months in prison, respectively, after pleading guilty last year to the attempted carjacking as well as the related firearm charge, while Maria Teresa De La Rosa, 28, of McAllen, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking. Also charged and convicted are Jose Wenceslado Mejia, 20, of Rio Grande City, Texas, and Dagoberto Navarro Pompa, 26, of Tamaulipas, Mexico. Mejia and Pompa have been sentenced to 150 and 180 months in prison, respectively, for their participation in the attempted carjacking.
 
This case, investigated by the FBI and the FBI Safe Street Task Force with the assistance of the Mission Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Leo J. Leo III and Casey N. MacDonald.