Federal Jury Convicts Two for Multiple Violent Crimes
McALLEN, Texas – Two men face up to life in prison following their convictions of drug crimes, carjacking, robbery and firearms offenses, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The McAllen jury deliberated for five hours before convicting Mexican citizen Marin Macrin Cerda aka Filtro, 33, and Jose Miguel Montemayor aka aEl Mickey, 29, of Mission, late Friday. Sept. 6, 2019, following a seven-day trial.
Both were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and a crime of violence, two counts of carjacking, four counts of Hobbs Act robberies, two counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and/or a drug trafficking offense and three counts of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and/or a drug trafficking offense. Cerda was also convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, an additional count of carjacking, an additional count of Hobbs Act robbery, two additional counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense and one additional count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or crime of violence in relation to events he participated in without Montemayor.
The investigation began after discovering a local rip crew was responsible for multiple carjackings and home invasions in Hidalgo County in order to steal controlled substances or drug proceeds.
Testimony revealed Cerda and other crew members utilized law enforcement officials to further their drug trafficking activities. Two of those included former Donna Independent School District police Officer Juan F. Mata, 40, of Donna, and former Hidalgo County Court at Law No. 6 bailiff Oscar De La Cruz, 53, of Pharr. Jurors heard Mata conducted fraudulent traffic stops in order to allow members of the organization to steal cocaine hidden in load vehicles. De La Cruz produced fictitious court paperwork or queried sensitive law enforcement and judicial databases the organization would provide to sources of supply in order to retain and steal controlled substances in their possession.
During trial, the jury heard about multiple crimes involving Cerda, Montemayor or both between 2016-2017.
Three of those crimes were carjackings in McAllen and Pharr involving both men in an attempt to steal cocaine. In the second and third instances, rip crew members discharged firearms at the vehicles in order to obtain the controlled substances.
Testimony further revealed Cerda and Montemayor were involved in an attempted robbery which resulted in a shoot-out in a McAllen neighborhood. Another crime involved a home invasion, during which the criminals entered the wrong residence seeking drugs and terrorizing a family, including a female who was eight months pregnant.
Cerda and Montemayor also served as scouts for a drug transaction involving more than 20 kilograms of cocaine Feb. 1, 2017, in McAllen.
Jurors heard that rip crew continued their activities when they also attempted to rob multiple kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle traveling through Mission and McAllen Feb. 27, 2017. Cerda and Montemayor discharged firearms at the targeted load vehicle in an attempt to steal the cocaine. Testimony revealed a bullet struck an occupant of the vehicle and required significant medical attention.
Cerda was further involved in the carjacking of a tractor trailer in rural Mission July 7, 2016, and a car chase and shootout Jan. 6, 2017. In the first instance, the rip crew threatened a family, including several juveniles, in order to steal a tractor trailer believed to conceal drug proceeds. During the car chase incident, the crew discharged firearms and rammed their vehicles into a vehicle before it ultimately crashed.
Jurors also heard testimony relating to a home invasion conducted in Mission April 3, 2017, when rip crew members, including Cerda, entered the residence of a suspected drug trafficker armed with firearms to steal more than $100,000 in drug proceeds.
The jury also heard that casings recovered from three of the crimes were fired from firearms recovered from Cerda’s vehicle.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that althought the crimes had been committed, co-conspirators fabricated Cerda’s and Montemayor’s involvement. They did not believe those claims and convicted both men as charged.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez presided over the trial and sent sentencing for Dec. 19, 2019. At that time, both men face up to 10 years for conspiracy to possess a firearm, a maximum of 15 years for each of the carjackings and 20 years on each of the robbery counts, a minimum of five and up to 40 years for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana as well a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the cocaine conspiracy.
In addition, they face a minimum of seven years and up to life for each of the brandishing firearms convictions and a 10-year minimum up to life for each of the discharging a firearms counts. The firearms sentences must be served consecutively to each other and to the other sentences imposed.
All in all, Montemayor faces a minimum of 54 years, while Cerda faces a minimum of 78 years to life in prison. Both face a maximum lifetime term of imprisonment.
They have been and will remain in custody pending their sentencing hearing.
To date, more than 25 co-conspirators have been convicted in connection with the investigation. Mata and De La Cruz also pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to 130 and 60 months, respectively.
The FBI Safe Streets Task Force and Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation with assistance from Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol and Regional Crime Laboratories, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office and Police Departments in McAllen, Mission, Pharr and San Juan. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roberto Lopez Jr. and K. Alejandra Andrade are prosecuting the case.