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Press Release

International cocaine distribution scheme results in another conviction

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

HOUSTON – A 51-year-old Houston man has admitted his role in an ongoing cocaine distribution scheme that spanned more than nine years, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Leonel Mata Luna admitted he was a member of a drug trafficking organization while residing in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. His role was to oversee the receipt and packaging of cocaine in Mexico and coordinate its transportation to the U.S. border. There, it was smuggled into the United States in vehicles on a monthly basis during the course of the conspiracy.

Luna received cocaine from members of the Gulf Cartel. The drugs eventually ended up in Houston where it was further distributed to others across the United States.

In December 2015, law enforcement agents seized 176 kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of meth and $3.5 million in drug proceeds after executing search warrants at three stash houses in Houston the organization controlled.

Luna was a fugitive for seven years until his arrest in Monterrey, Mexico, in September 2022 as part of a joint Mexican-American law enforcement operation. He was subsequently removed from Mexico and transported to Houston for prosecution. To date, 15 have been convicted in relation to the conspiracy.

Sentencing has been set for Dec. 11 before U.S. District Andrew S. Hanen. At that time, Luna faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison as well as a $10 million maximum fine.

He will remain in custody pending that hearing.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Houston Police Department conducted the investigation.

This Operation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations.

The specific mission of the Houston Strike Force is to disrupt and dismantle the drug trafficking organizations that designated Consolidated Priority Organization or Regional Priority Organization Targets head with their affiliates and that impact Houston and south Texas.

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

Updated September 8, 2023

Drug Trafficking