Former South Texas Police Officer Gets 14 years for Participation in Drug Smuggling Conspiracy
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas
VICTORIA, Texas - A former law enforcement officer has received a significant sentence following his conviction of conspiracy to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
Ramon “Ramey” Delacruz, 39, of Rio Grande City, was a former Rio Grande City police officer, Starr County Sheriff’s Office deputy and former investigator assigned to the Starr County District Attorney’s Violent Crime Task Force. He pleaded guilty April 4, 2017.
Today, following a nearly six-hour hearing, Senior U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey sentenced Delacruz to 168 months of federal imprisonment to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release.
At the hearing, the court heard additional testimony regarding the depths of corruption Delacruz reached in his support of the Rio Grande City-based Beltran Drug Trafficking Organization. Witnesses testified Delacruz escorted loads of marijuana through Starr county while on duty. He also assisted in the theft of marijuana loads from other traffickers by producing fictitious police reports of law enforcement interdictions that never took place and assisted in the theft of drug proceeds with mock law enforcement takedowns. Further, the court heard he provided the organization with a stolen law enforcement radio and a Starr county seal embosser and disposed of weapons taken from the Beltran ranch previously used in other violent felonies. Delacruz was paid for his services with racehorses, drugs and drug proceeds.
In handing down the sentence, the court noted Delacruz had not only participated in the conspiracy but also used his service-issued firearm and issued threats of violence in the commission of drug smuggling activities and assumed a leadership role in the organization. “Today is a sad day for your family and a sad day for law enforcement,” said Rainey. The court also noted Delacruz has a debt to pay society given his abuse of trust that was placed in him by the people in his community.
The investigation began in January 2013 after a Victoria County Sheriff’s Office deputy interdicted approximately 600 pounds of marijuana concealed in a horse trailer.
That event prompted a lengthy, multiple-agency, multi-jurisdictional investigation that would ultimately uncover information and evidence demonstrating the illegal activities of the Beltran drug trafficking organization. The organization used horse ranches in Rio Grande City to receive, repackage and conceal thousands of kilograms of marijuana in horse trailers, flat-bed trailers and tractor trailers to ship the marijuana to all points north. They used the sport of horse racing to facilitate drug smuggling and to launder illicit proceeds.
The organization also utilized violence, intimidation, bribery and public corruption to facilitate and perpetuate their illicit activities for nearly a decade with virtual impunity. The investigation demonstrated the organization’s dealings with ranking members of the Gulf and Zeta Cartels and the Starr County Chicano Brotherhood.
During his support of this conspiracy, Delacruz used his official capacity as well as municipal and county resources to assist the Beltran organization to smuggle thousands of pounds of marijuana into and throughout the U.S. Delacruz also used his peace officer authority to intimidate, threaten and coerce other drug traffickers as well as to protect drug loads to ensure their dominance in the region.
The six-year investigation has resulted in the arrest and conviction of 23 persons, the seizure and forfeiture of an American Quarter horse racing quarter horse, Black Patriot and three horse ranches.
Following the sentencing today, Delacruz was remanded to custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prison facility to be determined in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patti Hubert Booth and Vincent Carroll are prosecuting the case.
Updated August 9, 2019