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May 10, 2011

EIGHT OF 24 CONVICTED IN OCDETF OPERATION RELOAD SENTENCED

(LAREDO, Texas) – The first eight of 24 convicted for their roles in a Laredo based drug and money laundering organization and charged as a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation dubbed “Reload” were sentenced today and hundreds of thousands of dollars in real and personal assets were forfeited to the United States, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
           
OCDETF Operation Reload was an investigation spearheaded by special agents of the Laredo offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) and culminated in the return in December 2009 of several indictments against alleged leaders, supervisors, drivers and money laundering members of the Laredo-based Omar Compean and Centeno drug trafficking and money laundering organization. In January 2010, law enforcement authorities arrested a total of 29 defendants as a result of these indictments. 

The organization operated out of the Laredo area and was engaged in a conspiracy to transport bulk quantities of marijuana from the Laredo area for distribution in the Dallas, Texas, area. In conjunction with the drug conspiracy, the organizations laundered drug proceeds, transporting large sums of cash from drug distribution points to Laredo and Mexico as well as by conducting financial transactions via Western Union wire transfers and utilizing numerous bank accounts to make cash deposits and withdrawals of drug proceeds. Co-conspirators also conducted numerous financial transactions through the use of bank accounts and in relation to the purchase and sale of vehicles and real property which were designed in whole or in part to conceal and disguise the nature, ownership, control and source of the drug proceeds.   

In addition to the criminal charges, the indictments sought to forfeit all property, real and personal, involved in the offenses  and all  property traceable to such property to include but not limited to several ranches, a residence, numerous vehicles and millions of dollars in United States currency.
             
To date, 23 defendants including leaders of the organizations have pleaded guilty to various counts of drug and money laundering. A 24th defendant, Justino Loredo Vera, was tried and convicted by a jury in January 2011 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1000 kilograms of marijuana. Loredo was identified as a middleman who secured buyers of marijuana for the organization in the Dallas area. Five others charged as a result of this OCDETF operation are pending trial in July before Judge Alvarez and are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Seven of the eight defendants sentenced today were drivers or acted as scouts for separate drug loads for the organization. They are Laredoans Luis Gerardo Casarez, 38, sentenced to 73 months imprisonment and five years of supervised release and a fine of $5,000; Bernardo Pineda Lopez, 50, sentenced to 70 months followed by four years of supervised release; Noel Omar Barrera, 27, sentenced to 75 months, five years of supervised release and a fine of $5,000; Juan Manuel Lara, 38, sentenced to 46 months and three years of supervised release; and Jesus Enrique Salazar, 47, sentenced to 120 months incarceration to be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release. Jose De Jesus Romero, 32, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, was sentenced to 60 months and four years of supervised release; and Hector Guadalupe Rojas, 37, of Dallas, will serve a 77-month term of imprisonment, five years of supervised release and pay a fine of $5,000.

The eighth defendant sentenced today, Blanca Compean, 39, of Laredo, convicted of conducting a money laundering transaction in excess of $10,000 was sentenced to a term of three years probation. Additionally, the court entered a final order forfeiting to the United States, Blanca Compean’s interest in  a 10-acre ranchin Laredo, Texas, a 2007 GMC Yukon XL, a 2006 Mini Cooper, $152,666 in United States currency seized from Los Tres Omares Ranch, $42,346 United States currency seized from 1911 East Anna Avenue in Laredo, a 1998 Horse Trailer, a 2008 Horse Trailer and $26,000 from an IBC Certificate of Deposit.

Convicted and awaiting sentencing are: Omar Compean, 46, Javier Hugo Perez, 54, Oscar Rodriguez Avila, 46, Miguel Angel Davalos, 25, Sergio Alberto Ortegon, 32, Sergio Arturo Solis, 42, Eduardo Guadalupe Martinez, 32, Gloria Guevar, 30, George Albert Dominguez, 45, Alejandro Alcaraz, 26, all of Laredo, Texas; Felipe Ruiz, 28, a Mexican National residing in Rio Bravo, Texas, Albert Salinas, 50, of San Antonio, Texas, Mario Alberto Reyes-Hernandez, 23, Mario Alberto Reyes Moya, 50, and Manuel Moreno Gonzalez, all of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Justino Loredo Vera, 49, of El Cenizo, Texas.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary Lou Castillo.

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