Jury Convicts Conroe Man of Trafficking Cocaine and Conspiring to Launder Drug Money
HOUSTON – A federal jury in Houston has convicted a 44-year-old local man of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to launder money, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The returned its verdict against Oscar Benitez, 44, of Conroe, following one day of deliberations and three days of trial.
The jury heard that the investigation began in early 2011. At that time, agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, seized approximately four kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle that had been driven there from the Houston area. The investigation revealed the vehicle had recently been sold by Bensol Auto Sales in Arcola, Texas - a used car dealership that Benitez owned.
Houston agents then realized one of their confidential sources (CS) had already been speaking to Benitez about trying to buy large amounts of cocaine from him and his drug supplier. Benitez subsequently had told the individual that he moved large amounts of cocaine (25-100 kilograms at a time) and that he had a very well-connected drug supplier who could make such large deals happen.
The jury heard that on June 16, 2011, a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a Ford F-150 pickup truck in Monroe for a traffic violation. Reuben Orozco-Garcia was driving with Juan Gonzalez-Bejar as a passenger. The truck contained 81 kilograms of cocaine. Testimony at trial revealed that Orozco-Garcia had made a deposit of $9,000 into a bank account belonging to Bensol Auto Sales and Benitez the day of the cocaine seizure. The jury also heard that Benitez was using this Bensol Auto Sales account to launder the drug trafficking proceeds and that he supplied vehicles from Bensol to his drug supplier to transport drugs to other parts of the United States.
Orozco-Garcia and Gonzalez-Bejar previously pleaded guilty.
The evidence at trial also showed that in the fall of 2013, an individual delivered approximately 20 kilograms of cocaine to Benitez on a ranch he owns in Conroe. This delivery happened in the early morning hours and was directed by Benitez’ drug supplier, who was then located in Mexico.
The jury convicted Benitez on all accounts as charged.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore presided over the trial and set sentencing for Feb. 21, 2017. At that time. Benitez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in prison as well as a possible $10 million fine. He was permitted to remain on bond pending sentencing.
The DEA, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety conducted this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Arthur R. Jones and Richard Magness are prosecuting the case.