Drug Traffickers Get 20 Years in 6,000 Pound Marijuana Case
|Jan. 11, 2012|
McALLEN, Texas – Two Mexican nationals convicted last year by a federal jury of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana have been sentenced to lengthy terms of federal imprisonment, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Mexican nationals Jesus Gonzalez Hinojosa, 31, and Jose Vielma Garcia, 32, both of Roma, Texas, were found guilty in June of last year by a McAllen jury of both offenses after approximately 30 minutes of deliberation and following a two-day trial. Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who presided over the trial, held a sentencing hearing and sentenced Vielma to 240 months and Gonzalez to 235 months in federal prison. The defendants were also ordered to serve a 10 and five-year-term of supervised release, respectively.
During the trial, the United States presented evidence that Gonzalez and Vielma were arrested by U.S. Border Patrol (BP) agents following a short chase during the early evening hours of Jan. 25, 2011, as they fled from a ranch in El Sauz, Texas, with approximately 2,782 kilograms of marijuana valued at more than $4.8 million. U.S. Border Patrol agents testified that surveillance was established around the ranch which was a suspected “stash” location for marijuana. Agents saw Vielma and Gonzalez, who were passengers in a pick-up truck, entering the ranch. Gonzalez and Vielma were dropped off near four piles of bundled marijuana and the truck then left the ranch. Vielma and Gonzalez then walked toward the bundles but fled on foot when BP agents approached and identified themselves. After a short chase, Gonzalez and Vielma were apprehended and the contraband seized.
At the time of their apprehension, both defendants claimed to be undocumented aliens bound for Houston. However, the jury heard that at the time both defendants were seen by BP agents, they were walking toward the border rather than away from it and both defendants had substantial familial ties to the area and lived in well furnished homes about six miles from the ranch. Additionally, both men had a prior record for possessing marijuana and importing marijuana.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez also heard evidence that Gonzalez assaulted a U.S. Border Patrol agent once he was apprehended following the foot chase. His violent conduct with the agent was taken into consideration in his term of imprisonment.
Gonzalez and Vielma have been in federal custody since their arrest and will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future where they will serve out their sentences.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations in conjunction with the United States Border Patrol. Assistant United States Attorneys Cory J. H. Crenshaw and James Sturgis are prosecuting the case.