May 25, 2011
JURY CONVICTS COUSINS FOR TRAFFICKING MARIJUANA
(McALLEN, Texas)- A McAllen Jury has convicted cousins for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1320 pounds of marijuana, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced this afternoon.
A federal jury returned its verdicts late this morning after approximately five hours of deliberation finding Fidel Valencia, 24, a Mexican national illegally residing in McAllen, Texas, and his cousin, Daniel Mendoza, 24, of McAllen, Texas, guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. The jury also convicted Valencia of possessing with intent to distribute the marijuana, but acquitted Mendoza of this charge. A third defendant, Jesus Angel Valencia, 21, brother of Fidel Valencia, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in April 2011 in advance of trial.
During the two-day trial, the jury heard that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) received information about suspicious activity involving narcotics at a warehouse in Pharr, Texas, in February 2011. In response, DPS officers along with Border Patrol agents established surveillance at the warehouse on Feb. 7-9. During the evening hours of Feb. 9, surveillance saw a tractor-trailer being loaded at the warehouse. After the tractor-trailer left the warehouse area, a marked DPS patrol unit stopped the truck for a traffic violation. A search of the trailer resulted in the discovery and seizure of 559 bundles of marijuana weighing a total of 600 kilograms or 1320 pounds. Each of the 559 bundles of marijuana was hidden in 559 individual boxes of Panel Rey joint compound mix. Through investigation, the investigating officers and agents learned the driver had been hired by a third-party broker to pick-up the load for delivery to Fort Worth, Texas. The driver was released.
Meanwhile, as the tractor-trailer left the warehouse, Fidel Valencia - accompanied by his brother Jesus Angel Valencia, an illegal alien residing in McAllen, Texas - and Daniel Mendoza, were also seen leaving the warehouse in a pick-up truck. The three men had been seen at the warehouse assisting with the loading of the tractor trailer found to be carrying the marijuana. They too were subsequently stopped that evening by a marked DPS unit. Fidel Valencia claimed that he had just left a mechanic’s shop and was traveling to a house with his brother and cousin to do some construction work. In the bed of the pick-up truck, the state trooper saw excess Panel Rey joint compound mix in plastic bags. Fidel Valencia claimed he had purchased the mix at a flea market in Alamo, Texas, for $20 a bag. Once the marijuana was found in the tractor trailer hidden in joint compound mix boxes, all three men were arrested.
The jury heard that after his arrest, Fidel Valencia claimed he was at the warehouse only to help ship the Panel Rey compound mix and offered contradictory statements about who and where he worked and who owned or rented the warehouse. Daniel Mendoza claimed he was never at a warehouse. However, the jury learned that the person who rented the warehouse was in telephone contact with Jesus Alberto Valencia and the third-party brokers. Through the testimony of the tractor-trailer driver, who did not know about the contraband in the load of compound mix, the jury learned he had picked up the load from all three defendants on Feb. 9, 2011.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, has scheduled sentencing for Aug. 4, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. for Fidel Valencia and Daniel Mendoza. Jesus Angel Valencia is to be sentenced on July 20. All three men face no less than five up to 40 years prison terms without parole and millions in fines.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by DPS in conjunction with the United States Border Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan F. Alanis is prosecuting the case and tried the case for the United States.
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