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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGELA DODGE

Aug. 1, 2012

PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICER
(713) 567-9388

Leader/Organizer Handed 21+ Years in Marijuana Conspiracy

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Julio Alberto Chapa, 40, of Corpus Christi, has been handed a significant federal sentence for his leadership role in a conspiracy to smuggle 1,257 kilograms of marijuana into the United States on board several small fishing vessels, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Chapa pleaded guilty May 3, 2012.

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos sentenced Chapa, the leader and organizer in the conspiracy, to a total of 262 months in federal prison. The sentence will be followed by a five-year-term of supervised release. His sentence was enhanced due his leadership/organizer role and because he directly imported the marijuana from Mexico, he maintained a premises for the distribution of the marijuana and because a firearm was involved in the offense. Also sentenced today was fellow Corpus Christi resident Alfredo Gacia, 24. He also previously pleaded guilty and will serve 87 months in prison. The remaining two defendants, Adam Ray Zamora and Mark Douglas Cannon Jr., 21 and 26, who both pleaded guilty and are also residents of Corpus Christi, will be sentenced later this month.

“This investigation permanently dismantled a significant transnational drug smuggling organization,” said Rutt. “This is an excellent example of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working together to keep our communities safe.”

On March 5, 2012, at approximately 5:50 a.m., an officer with the Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD) was patrolling the beach near the southern side of the city limits, at which time he observed two trucks and a van on the beach. The trucks were parked approximately 30 yards from the water and the van was parked along the edge. The officer observed a group of people moving large black bundles from the water to the van. Upon shining his light, the group scattered and he witnessed a boat in the water. The van fled on the beach at a high rate of speed until it eventually got stuck in the loose sand. Garcia, the driver, was arrested along with Cannon and Zamora, while Chapa was arrested a short distance away.

Recovered documents revealed Chapa was the owner and/or insurer of all three vehicles. Eleven bundles of marijuana were recovered from the van and the water with a gross weight of 406.4 kilograms. 

The U.S. Coast Guard joined the investigation and later the same day they located two vessels approximately 55 miles off shore, departing U.S. water and headed into international waters. Three Mexican nationals were detained and 15 bundles of marijuana were recovered. The marijuana was determined to have a gross weight of 480.5 kilograms.

On March 6, 2012, a concerned citizen reported finding bales of marijuana hidden inside a buoy on South Padre Island, just south of the Port of Mansfield, Texas, jetty. A total of 14 bundles of marijuana were recovered with a gross weight of 475 kilograms.

All three loads of marijuana were similarly packaged and contained unique markings that linked them to the conspiracy. The net weight of the combined three loads of marijuana was 1,257 kilograms and was conservatively valued at $4 million. 

The case was investigated by HSI, the Corpus Christi Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Miller prosecuted the case.