Corpus Christi Jury Convicts Houston Man Of Marijuana Trafficking
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A federal jury in Corpus Christi has found Luis Perez-Barocela guilty for his participation in a large drug trafficking conspiracy, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The jury returned its verdict just a short time ago after three days of trial and less than three hours of deliberation.
Perez-Barocela, 37, of Houston, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana from October 2011 until his arrest on Oct. 24, 2012.
Evidence at trial established that the organization moved large amounts of marijuana in tractor-trailers hauling produce through the Falufurrias Border Patrol checkpoint and on to other major cities within the United States. From October 2011 until April 2012, approximately 3,000 kilograms of marijuana was seized. Those seizure have, to date, resulted in the convictions of three tractor-trailer drivers, Jose Benitez, 46, of Houston, Ernesto Cabrera-Enriquez, 39, of Miami, Fla., Noe Galindo, 37, of Weslaco, as well as co-defendants Raul Peraza-Trejo, 44, of Miami, and Oscar Quijano, 43, of Dallas.
The government proved Peraza-Trejo would procure large loads of marijuana in the Rio Grande Valley, while Perez-Barocela was responsible for recruiting drivers. He and his co-defendants were also tasked with escorting the loads through the checkpoint while safely situated in other passenger vehicles and maintaining contact with the drivers by phone. Jurors also learned Quijano provided the organization with his tractor-trailer on several occasions for use in the smuggling venture.
Drivers Benitez, Cabrera-Enriquez, Galindo and others provided testimony that they were each recruited by Perez-Barocela and offered between $15,000 and $55,000 to drive approximately 700 pounds of marijuana through the checkpoint and on to various cities within the United States. However, they learned upon their arrest that they had actually been hauling between 1,200 and 2,800 pounds.
Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) testified as to photographs showing Perez-Barocela, his co-defendants and/or vehicles associated with the defendants passing through the checkpoint often within minutes of load vehicles. Additionally, the jury heard testimony regarding cellular telephone records that demonstrated contact between Perez-Barocela and the drivers in the days and weeks leading up to their arrest.
Senior U.S. District Judge John Rainey, who presided over the trial, has set sentencing for Aug. 19, 2013, at which time Perez-Barocela faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison as well as a $10 million fine. He will remain in custody pending that hearing. All other co-defendants and co-conspirators are awaiting sentencing.
The case was investigated by DEA, HSI and Border Patrol. Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston is prosecuting the case.