Jury Convicts Inmate In Meth Trafficking Conspiracy
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Juan Ledezma, 40, of Brownsville, has been convicted by a federal jury of drug trafficking in a conspiracy that involved gang leadership both inside and outside of the Texas prison system, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The jury returned its guilty verdict just a short time ago after two days of trial and one hour of deliberation.
Ledezma was one of the final defendants to be found guilty in a 13-count indictment that involved 31 others, 13 of whom are former McConnell Unit prison guards. Of the 32 defendants in the case, 29 have now been convicted and two are fugitives. The final defendant, Melissa Lozano, is set for trial on July 22. She is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty through due process of law.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony that Ledezma acted as an intermediary between drug traffickers in south Texas and Mexico. He had connections to drug suppliers and, utilizing illegal cell phones smuggled in by corrupt guards, coordinated with other prisoners to organize drug deals inside and outside the prison. Jurors heard that prisoners had made phone calls to Ledezma while in the McConnell Unit of Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). In these calls, Ledezma agreed to help arrange for six pounds of methamphetamine to be purchased in Corpus Christi and distributed in Arkansas. The buyers of the methamphetamine were to pay more than $20,000 per pound of the drug.
Ledezma and others stood to make thousands of dollars in profit from inside their prison cells on this one deal alone. The jury also heard that agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) watched as a transfer of a sample of the drug took place in McAllen. The drug deal ultimately was unsuccessful, yet resulted in conspiracy charges for Ledezma and others. Numerous other inmates and gang members on the street have also pleaded guilty in this and prior related prosecutions, including Preston Mascorro, Jerome Aranda, Israel Plazola, Michael Ornelas, Jose Manuel Ledezma, Rudy Rodriguez, Anthony Torres, Ricky Alejandro, Martin Guardiola III and Stephen Ayala, resulting in lengthy federal sentences.
Ledezma faces up to life in prison and an $8 million fine. He will remain in custody pending sentencing.
These convictions were the result of an ongoing investigation dubbed Operation Prison Cell being conducted jointly by special agents with HSI, Internal revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and officers of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Office of Inspector General and the Corpus Christi Police Department Gang and Organized Crime Units.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark Patterson and Michael Hess.