15 convicted in $11M cartel drug conspiracy
LAREDO, Texas – Several individuals residing in South Texas and Mexico have pleaded guilty for their roles in a conspiracy to transport large quantities of marijuana forCartel del Noreste (CDN), announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Gustavo Alberto Duenes-Perez pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. Fourteen others previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the same conspiracy.
“The arrests and convictions serve as a significant blow to the cartels who were trafficking massive amounts of marijuana into the Laredo area for years and using our communities to make profit,” said Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux. “These individuals were a thorn that has now been ripped from the city of Laredo and surrounding areas thanks to the continuous hard work and commitment of federal and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors who brought these individuals to justice.
“We are pleased to be an integral component of a complex and successful investigation which led to conviction of these 15 individuals,” said Laredo Police Department (LPD) chief Claudio Treviño. “Through our close collaborations with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we have been able to maintain enforcement and safety in our border community despite our proximity to the Mexican border. LPD lauds our Narcotics and Vice Unit for their dedication and tireless efforts towards their investigation and the seamless teamwork with our partner agencies. We are committed to enhance their efforts with future collaborations to disrupt and dismantle these criminal transnational organizations in order to maintain peace and safety for the citizens of Laredo.”
In March 2019, authorities learned CDN provided $4,500 for the purchase of a white utility truck. The organization planned to use the vehicle to pick up a marijuana load from a warehouse on San Mateo Drive in Laredo.
Law enforcement continued the investigation and monitored the vehicle over the next several months. Duenes-Perez was often the driver. On April 17, 2019, the truck was involved in a smuggling event that occurred at a ranch near State Highway 359 and Botello Road in Laredo.
There, several people loaded a Lincoln Navigator with bundles of marijuana which was driven to a local stash house. Law enforcement seized approximately 1,168 kilograms of marijuana from the ranch and an additional 969 kilograms from inside both the Lincoln Navigator and the stash house.
In total, authorities have seized approximately 11,240 kilograms of marijuana valued at approximately $11.6 million as part of the case.
All 15 co-conspirators are scheduled for sentencing before District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo in June 2022. Duenes-Perez and others could face up to life in prison and a $10 million maximum possible fine. Other convicted in relation to the investigation face up to 40 years. Duenes-Perez has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
This case was part of the Blue Indigo Task Force and brought as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation Noreste. OCDETF is the largest anti-crime task force in the country. Its mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.
The DEA and LPD conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; Border Patrol; Customs and Border Protection; FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. National Guard; Webb County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Constable’s Office Precincts 1 and 4; and Texas Department of Public Safety.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Day is prosecuting this case.