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Jan. 11, 2011

TWO CONVICTED OF TRAFFICKING 892 KILOGRAMS OF MARIJUANA

(LAREDO, Texas) – The discovery of almost 2000 pounds of marijuana in a van which led law enforcement on a high speed chase and ended after the driver crashed into another motorist causing life threatening injuries has resulted in guilty pleas of the driver and the marijuana stash house occupant, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Juan de Dios Garcia-Leal, the driver of the marijuana laden van, and Octavio Garcia, occupant of the residence at 220 Shea Street in Laredo where the marijuana was stored and the van loaded, both pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 500 kilograms of marijuana on Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, before U.S. District Court Judge Micaela Alvarez.

Garcia-Leal, 21, a Mexican national lawfully in the country, and Octavio Garcia, 35, of Laredo, face no less than five and a maximum of 40 years imprisonment for the conviction and millions in fines. Judge Alvarez has set sentencing for April 11, 2011.

The charges against both men are the result of an ongoing investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI). On Nov. 16, 2010, ICE-HSI agents conducting surveillance at the Shea residence saw a white van driven by Garcia-Leal leave the residence. At the request of the agents, a Webb County Sheriff’s Department marked patrol unit attempted to perform a traffic stop on the van. The driver refused to stop and instead fled, reaching speeds of up to 80 miles an hour in his effort to evade the patrol unit. The pursuit ended when Garcia-Leal crashed into another motorist, causing that person to suffer life-threatening injuries. Garcia-Leal fled the accident site on foot but was quickly apprehended.  A search of the van resulted in the discovery of 892 kilograms of marijuana. Garcia-Leal confessed to agents, admitting he knew he was transporting marijuana and expected to be paid $500. Garcia-Leal was arrested and subsequently charged. The injured motorist was hospitalized.

Later the same day, ICE-HSI agents conducted a search of the Shea residence and spoke with the occupant, Garcia. Garcia confessed to agents that in exchange for $300 he had arranged with a third party to permit his residence to be used to load marijuana into the van driven by Garcia-Leal. Garcia was arrested and subsequently charged.

Both men have been and will remain in federal custody without bond pending their sentencing hearing.

The drug trafficking investigation is being conducted by ICE-HSI agents with the assistance of the Webb County Sheriff’s Department and the Laredo Police Department. Assistant U. S. Attorney Josh Ackerman is prosecuting the case.

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