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Jan. 19, 2011

HOUSTON SALVAGE YARD OWNER SENTENCED TO 30 YEARS IN PRISON FOR HEROIN TRAFFICKING

(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) - Joel Linares-Soberanis, 36, has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison without parole for trafficking heroin into the United States from Mexico, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Joel Linares-Soberanis, a 36 year-old Guatemalan who owned Nationwide Import Car Salvage Inc. in Houston, was found guilty by a jury on Oct. 22, 2010, of conspiracy to import 17.8 kilograms of heroin into the United States from Mexico and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the heroin. Prior to trial, Linares-Sobernais pleaded guilty to a third count alleged in the indictment - being an alien in possession of a firearm. On Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011, U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle sentenced Linares-Soberanis to 360 months in federal prison for each of the first two counts and 120 months on the third count, all to run concurrently. That 360-month sentence will be followed by a five-term of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. 

During trial, the jury learned that on Nov. 6, 2009, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents discovered 17.8 kilograms of heroin concealed in a vehicle driven by a co-conspirator as he entered the United States through a Brownsville, Texas, Port of Entry. The hollow portion of the drive shafts on Dodge pick-ups contained the concealed heroin. Through further investigation, agents learned that a Linares-Sobernais, a Houston salvage yard owner, was the person to whom the drugs were to be delivered and the person who was to pay for the transporting of the drugs from Mexico to Houston. 

As Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigation (ICE-HSI)  agents conducted further investigation into the salvage yard owner, they found the salvage yard and its owner were under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for possible firearms violations. Crossing records of the vehicle’s lien holder led to the discovery of Fernando Argenis Huezo, a co-conspirator involved in the trafficking. A search warrant was conducted at the salvage yard and at the homes of the co-conspirators on March 11, 2010, in Houston. Linares-Sobernais and Huezo were arrested on March 11, 2010. 

Huezo pleaded guilty on June 3, 2010, to conspiracy to import heroin and making a false statement on a firearms record, while the driver of the vehicle in which the heroin was found, Felix Dalas Ortega, pleaded guilty on Jan. 13, 2010, to possession with intent to distribute heroin. Through testimony, the jury learned that Linares-Sobernais hired, directed and in some instances paid his co-conspirators to import and possess with intent to distribute drugs.  

The heroin intercepted at the bridge on Nov. 6, 2010, had an estimated street value of more than $8 million according to the testimony of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. 

Linares-Sobernais has been in custody since his arrest and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where he will serve out his sentence. Co-defendants Huezo and Ortega are pending sentencing on Feb. 22, 2011. 

The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by CBP, ICE-HSI, and ATF. The case was prosecuted by Attorney Bill Hagen and Megan Paulson. 

 

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