Three Arrested in “Operation El Patron”
|Sept. 12, 2012|
LAREDO, Texas – Three persons have been arrested as a result of the return of a sealed indictment for allegedly conspiring to traffic cocaine, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Enrique Mendez, 40, of Laredo, along with Carlos Javier Flores Sr., 48, and Carlos Javier Flores Jr., 27, both of Zapata, Texas, were taken into custody following an enforcement action today.
They are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott J. Hacker tomorrow, Sept. 13, 2012.
The 10-count indictment returned June 27, 2012, and partially unsealed upon their arrests today, also includes charges of conspiring to smuggle cash in the form of drug proceeds into Mexico as well as a charge of obstruction by threats or force by some of these persons. The indictment also includes a notice of intent to forfeit from all of the defendants approximately $41.9 million as proceeds of the alleged illegal trafficking activity. The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not as yet in custody.
The indictment accuses all those presently in custody of conspiring together to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, a controlled substance. Some of the defendants are also charged in substantive counts of laundering U.S. currency in amounts of $200,468 to $999,465 or in substantive counts of possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. Mendez is further charged in a substantive count of using or threatening to use physical force against another or threatening violence against another to hinder or obstruct a drug trafficking and money laundering investigation.
The indictment is the result of a multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation dubbed Operation El Patron involving Homeland Security Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Agencies who assisted in the arrests and other aspects of the investigation included the Webb County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol, Webb County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
If convicted of the drug trafficking conspiracy, each defendant faces a mandatory minimum punishment of 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment without parole as well as a $10 million fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Graciela Rodriguez Lindberg is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.