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Press Release

Brother of former Gulf Cartel leader sent to prison

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

HOUSTON –  A 39-year old South Texas man has been handed a significant sentence for his role in a cocaine distribution conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.  

A federal jury deliberated for approximately four hours following an eight-day trial before returning a guilty verdict July 22, 2019, against Lee Roy Villareal, Rio Grande City, on conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

Today, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen imposed a 180-month-term of imprisonment be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court found Villarreal ran a large-scale cocaine distribution network that spanned nearly five years. During that time, Villarreal and his associates distributed 150-450 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico and Panama to a large number of cocaine distributors based throughout the country to include cities in Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Indiana.

The judge found Villarreal was directly involved in the importation of cocaine.

Villarreal’s brother is Michael Villarreal aka Gringo Mike, a former Gulf Cartel plaza boss whom rival Gulf Cartel members killed in March 2013.

“Drug cartels like Gulf Cartel aka Cartel del Golfo (CDG) flood our communities with drugs that cause death and destruction, but high-ranking CDG leaders like Villarreal are not immune from stiff punishments,” said Hamdani. “This prosecution dealt a tough blow to the CDG’s operations. Villarreal brought poison to our communities, and collaborative efforts with our partners brought him to justice.”

At trial, the jury heard Villarreal was in charge of running drug trafficking operations on the U.S. side in South Texas on behalf of Gringo Mike and the Gulf Cartel.

Testimony revealed Villarreal was directly involved in the importation of cocaine from Mexico and Panama. He directed the activities of his workers who imported, stashed and transported cocaine to cities across the United States. Villarreal was also in charge of repatriating proceeds from the sale of cocaine back to Gringo Mike and Gulf Cartel members in Mexico. Villarreal used at least one stash house in Mission to store cocaine and drug proceeds.

Villarreal testified at trial and claimed he was never involved in drug trafficking, had no illegal association with his brother, Gringo Mike, and merely operated a legitimate auto mechanic business. The jury did not believe the defense claims and found him guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

To date, 12 other individuals have been convicted in relation to the conspiracy.

Lee Roy Villareal has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI led the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation La Hermandad, along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, Border Patrol, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, Starr County High Intensity Drug Task Force Area Task Force and the Mission Police Department. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anibal J. Alaniz and Casey N. MacDonald of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.

Updated March 20, 2023

Drug Trafficking