News and Press Releases

Leader of Zapata Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization Convicted

Dec. 8, 2011

15 others convicted in recent weeks

LAREDO, Texas – The leader of a drug trafficking and money laundering organization operating out of the Zapata, Texas, area from approximately June 2006 through June 2011 has pleaded guilty, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Pedro Navarro Jr., 36, of Zapata, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Guillermo Garcia to his roles in moving marijuana and methamphetamine and laundering proceeds from drug sales.  

At his plea hearing a short time ago, Navarro admitted that between February 2008 and June 2011, he was responsible for transporting numerous loads of controlled substances from the Zapata area to other parts of Texas and beyond. Some of these drug loads were seized by law enforcement, including numerous loads of marijuana totaling thousands of kilograms and approximately five kilograms of methamphetamine which was seized in Beasley, Texas, on or about April 5, 2011.

Today, Navarro also admitted he was a member and leader of the drug trafficking conspiracy responsible for these marijuana and methamphetamine loads. In addition to being responsible for transporting drugs, he also admitted he used a residence on Falcon Lake to store the marijuana after it had been smuggled from Mexico into the United States. This marijuana would normally be ferried across the lake from Mexico at night in small boats, which would pull up to his residence on the lake where individuals would then unload the marijuana. Later, Navarro would then ensure the marijuana was loaded into passenger vehicles at the residence which would be driven to wherever the drugs were headed.

Navarro also admitted today that he conspired with others to launder money, which represented the proceeds of his drug trafficking. He agreed to transport large amounts of United States currency, which were the proceeds of drug trafficking, from the Zapata area to Mexico, and hid did so with the intention of promoting the continued operation of his drug trafficking business. Navarro specifically agreed to help transport this money to Mexico, where it would be given to other members of the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies. 

These persons provided the drugs which were being trafficked as well as provided them the money in question, thereby ensuring their illegal drug trafficking business would continue in operation. One of the specific loads of money for which Navarro was responsible included approximately $23,425 seized at or near Hebbronville, Texas, on March 9, 2010. Navarro also used some of the proceeds he made from drug trafficking to build a residence in Zapata. During the course of the drug trafficking conspiracy, the members of conspiracy were responsible for generating proceeds from that activity in the amount of at least $18 million.

In addition to the guilty plea today, 15 additional co-conspirators have also pleaded guilty to various drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the current case over the last several weeks. These individuals include:  Alex Navarro, 21, Servando Guerrero Jr. aka “Mariachi, 36, Sandalio Ramos aka “Lalo,” 41, Rene Davila, 29, Leonel Rodriguez aka “La Dona”, 41, Juan Luis Rivera, 29, Jorge Grajeda Jr., 28, Juan Antonio Valadez Sr., 53, Jose Luis Gonzalez-Chapa, 23, Judith Zamora, 26, Clauida Medrano, 27, Leonides Navarro, 21, Maria Micaela Berrones, 23, all of Zapata, Texas; and Andres Quintero-Ortiz aka “Chango”, 46, of Lopeno, Texas; and Hermes Ramsden Leal, 19, of Roma, Texas. Sentencing for these 15 and Navarro has not yet been scheduled before United States District Judge Diana Saldaña. At sentencing, each faces a minimum of five years and up to life in prison, without parole, depending on their respective roles in the offenses and criminal history. In addition, as a result of their convictions, each defendant is facing a fine ranging from $4 to $20 million.

In addition to the convictions of the 16 persons listed above, the investigation has resulted in the seizure of more than 10,000 kilograms of marijuana, approximately five kilograms of methamphetamine and more than 30 grams of crack cocaine, as well as significant amounts of United States currency which represented the proceeds of illegal drug sales.

This case is the result of a three-plus year investigation led by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, with assistance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, United States Marshals Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, Sheriff’s Departments in Zapata, Webb, Fort Bend, and Jim Hogg Counties as well as police departments in La Joya and El Campo, Texas. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arthur R. Jones.

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