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Press Release

Cartel-Linked Brothers Sentenced to 70 Years for Meth Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas

Two brothers with ties to a notorious Mexican cartel have been sentenced to a combined 70 years in federal prison for methamphetamine and money laundering offenses, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.

Pedro Hernandez Zarate, a 45 year-old Mexican national in the U.S. illegally, and his brother Ricardo Hernandez Zarate, a 33-year-old legal resident, were charged via criminal complaint in March 2021. Ricardo pleaded guilty in February 2022 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and money laundering, and was sentenced in November 2022 to 40 years in federal prison (40  years on the drug charges and 20 years on the money laundering charges, to run concurrently). Pedro pleaded guilty in November 2021 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced Thursday to 30 years in federal prison. 

"The FBI in collaboration with our law enforcement partners was able to successfully disrupt the illegal activities of individuals affiliated with Cartel de Jalisco Nuevo Generación (CJNG). This removal of large amounts of methamphetamine from our streets makes our communities safer from deadly narcotics," said FBI Dallas Acting Special Agent in Charge James J. Dwyer. "We will continue to work collaboratively to prosecute and dismantle the individuals and organizations that traffic and distribute narcotics into our communities."

According to court testimony, Pedro helped coordinate the transfer of approximately 112 liquid gallons of methamphetamine – a quantity with a street value of more than $9.9 million dollars -- to codefendants who planned to transport it from Texas to Oklahoma. The liquid meth – which arrived in Dallas in the diesel tank of a tractor trailer before being transferred into a holding tank and then given over to Pedro’s co-defendants – was seized by law enforcement in Gainesville, Texas.

Containers of liquid methamphetamine recovered by law enforcement in Gainsville, Texas

Agents linked the meth shipment to the Cartel de Jalisco Nuevo Generación (CJNG) Transnational Criminal Organization, one of the two largest and most dangerous drug cartels in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Ricardo acted as a Dallas-area cell head, sourcing his methamphetamine from two suppliers in Mexico and selling kilogram quantities of meth, which he called “shaved ice,” to customers. He also instructed people to deliver methamphetamine in other parts of Texas. 

Co-defendant Elmer Gardea Tello was previously sentenced to a term of 55 months confinement for his involvement in drug trafficking.

Eight additional defendants – including Benito Diaz Hernandez, Marcos Garcia Reyes, Rafael Diaz,  Jose Alberto Plascencia Torres, Heleodoro Rosales Ramirez, Salvador Antonio Martinez, Walter Daniel Chapa Marty, and Uriel Marin Gaona –  have entered guilty pleas in the case and await sentencing.

The investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, with special assistance provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Gainesville Police Department, Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, the Dallas Police Department, the Fort Worth Police Department, the Williamson County, Texas Sheriff’s Department, the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee, the FBI’s Knoxville Field Office (Tennessee Resident Agency Office), and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Dallas Strike Force 1. Assistant U.S. Attorneys George Leal and John Kull are prosecuting the case.

The case is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) case.  The OCDETF program was established in 1982 in order to attack and reduce the supply of illegal drugs entering the United States and to diminish violence and other criminal activity associated with the drug trade.  The OCDETF program leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers and drug trafficking networks using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information can be found at


Erin Dooley
Press Officer 

Updated February 13, 2023

Drug Trafficking