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Aug. 31, 2011

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Five Men Sentenced in Narcotics Trafficking Conspiracy

LAREDO, Texas - Five men have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from 21 to 109 months for trafficking narcotics, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Oscar Gutierrez, Robert John Gutierrez, John Robert Gutierrez and Jaime Laurel, all United States citizens, all pleaded guilty on May 10, 2011, to one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. This morning, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldaña sentenced Oscar Gutierrez, 25, Robert John Gutierrez, 30, John Robert Gutierrez, 30, and Laurel, 27, all of Oilton, Texas, to 109, 80, 76, and 30 months, respectively, in federal prison without parole in addition to fining each $3600. Oscar Gutierrez, Robert John Gutierrez and John Robert Gutierrez will serve five years of supervised release following their release from prison while Laurel will serve a four-year-term. A fifth defendant, Manuel de Jesus Ramirez, 37, a Mexican citizen and U.S. resident alien of Bruni, Texas, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison without parole to be followed by a one-year-term of supervised release for his misprision of a felony conviction.

On the morning of Jan. 17, 2011, a United States Border Patrol agent conducted surveillance at the residence of de Jesus Ramirez. After several minutes, a brown Chevrolet pick-up truck driven by Laurel with front-seat passenger Oscar Gutierrez pulled into the driveway. Laurel, Gutierrez and an unidentified third man walked over to a gray Dodge Ram pick-up truck that was already parked in the driveway. After approximately 20 minutes of working on the Dodge Ram, Laurel and Gutierrez departed.

Approximately five minutes later, a white four-door Lincoln driven by Robert John Gutierrez with passenger Manuel de Jesus Ramirez and an unknown third male arrived at the location.  After several minutes, the three occupants of the Lincoln left the residence. Shortly thereafter, the brown Chevrolet pick-up returned again with Laurel, Oscar Gutierrez and another unknown male. After several minutes, the Dodge Ram was driven out by that unknown male. At that time, Oscar Gutierrez yelled to the driver in Spanish, AI will tell you when you have the green light.@ Some minutes thereafter, Oscar Gutierrez looked to both sides of the street then signaled and yelled to the driver of the Dodge Ram in Spanish, AGo, go!@ Laurel and Oscar Gutierrez then drove away in the Chevrolet and led the Dodge Ram toward Highway 359. A Jim Hogg County sheriff=s deputy then began surveillance of the two trucks, with the Dodge Ram in the lead, eastbound on Highway 359 headed toward Hebbronville as they passed the Jim Hogg County line. Thereafter, the Dodge Ram turned around and headed back west on 359 toward Bruni.

Later that afternoon, a Jim Hogg County sheriff=s deputy began pursuing a copper/gold King Ranch dually truck registered to John Robert Gutierrez, and being driven by him, on Highway 359 in Realitos, Texas. The dually then pulled to the side of the road and stopped while the sheriff=s deputy drove by. Sometime before entering Benavides, Texas, the dually sped ahead of the deputy and continued on Highway 359 toward San Diego, Texas. Meanwhile, the sheriff=s deputy turned right on FM 2295, headed toward Kingsville, Texas, and waited on the side of the road. Approximately 15 minutes later, the Dodge Ram turned on FM 2295 from Highway 359 and began heading toward Kingsville. The sheriff=s deputy then began following the Dodge truck. As the deputy approached the village of San José, Texas, the Lincoln driven by Robert John Gutierrez approached the deputy from behind. The Lincoln eventually passed the deputy, and when they reached the intersection of FM 2295 and Highway 281, the Lincoln pulled over. The deputy then saw the Lincoln turn north on Highway 281 toward Alice, Texas.

The deputy then continued, now on Highway 141, toward Kingsville, still following the Dodge Ram. At that time, John Robert Gutierrez=s dually approached him from behind and passed him and the Dodge Ram and sped off toward Kingsville. The Dodge Ram then pulled off of the road into a driveway and waited for the deputy to pass, after which the Dodge Ram pulled back on to the highway toward Kingsville then veered off of the roadway. The deputy then U-turned and the Dodge Ram veered into his lane, behind him, struck a fenceline and the driver bailed out.  Seeing that numerous law enforcement personnel were on the scene, the deputy did not stop and continued on his way. Department of Public Safety troopers discovered 86 bundles of marijuana weighing 429 kilograms in the Dodge Ram.

All five defendants convicted of the narcotics trafficking conspiracy were indicted on March 29, 2011. At their guilty pleas on May 10, 2011, they admitted conspiring to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana on Jan. 17, 2011. A superseding criminal information was filed against Ramirez on May 9, 2011, charging him with one count of misprision of a felony. As a result, he admitted to allowing in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana to remain hidden in a truck in his driveway, without alerting authorities, all the while knowing that others possessed the marijuana with intent to distribute it.

All except Laurel, who posted bond, have been in custody since their arrest and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where they will serve out their sentences. Laurel will surrender to a Bureau of Prisons facility at a date to be determined to serve his sentence.

The investigation leading to the indictment and conviction was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and United States Border Patrol. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Frank T. Pimentel.