Final rip crew members ordered to federal prison
HOUSTON – Three Houston men have been sentenced for their participation in a rip crew, with the leader receiving a significant 30-year-term, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick.
Mike Piedra, 36, pleaded guilty Aug. 9, 2018, while Efrain Delgado, 33, and Jesse Perez, 45, admitted their guilt March 5, 2018. The men acknowledged their roles in a conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to use, carry or possess a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
Today, Chief U.S. District Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal sentenced Delgado and Perez to serve 150 and 160 months, respectively. On Nov. 6, Piedra was ordered to serve 360 months for his role as the leader of the group.
At Piedra’s sentencing, the court heard evidence and testimony regarding Piedra’s extensive efforts to obstruct justice in this case. He had an elaborate scheme to persuade his fellow crew members to take the fall for him. If that failed, he wanted them to take their cases to trial so he could cooperate, testify against them and potentially earn a reduced sentence. His efforts failed.
In imposing the sentence, Chief Rosenthal described Piedra’s crime as a “sinister plot” and noted he had earned every month of his 30-year sentence.
A drug rip crew targets stash houses cartel members use to store drugs for further distribution in the United States.
Authorities investigated Piedra’s rip crew, whose members were already gang members with extensive experience in violent robberies. The undercover operation involved the supposed robbery of a stash house where 20 kilograms of cocaine was allegedly being stored. The crew members outlined in detail the violence they would use to carry out the robbery and boasted about their prior and violent experience committing similar crimes.
Piedra was the mastermind behind the robbery crew. He would not be present at the actual robbery, but would organize it from behind the scenes. He also provided the weapons and manpower to commit the crime. Delgado and Perez committed the robbery itself and engaged in the violence necessary to rob the stash house and steal the drugs.
There was no actual stash house. On July 23, 2015, a combined law enforcement operation resulted in the arrests of all three men without risk to the community.
They have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Houston Police Department conducted the joint investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharad S. Khandelwal prosecuted the case.