Jury Convicts Local Man of Armed Drug Trafficking in School Zone
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A federal jury has returned a guilty verdict against a 23-year-old Corpus Christi man for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking offense, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The Corpus Christi jury deliberated for approximately one hour before convicting Roman Valdez following a two-day trial.
During the trial, the jury heard testimony from multiple law enforcement officers.
On Nov. 14, 2018, at approximately 3:00 p.m., they discovered Valdez passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle at a traffic light in front of Flour Bluff Elementary School. When the officers opened the door to check on him, he became combative and began reaching around inside the vehicle. During the struggle, officers discovered a loaded handgun between the driver’s seat and the center console.
Law enforcement secured the firearm but Valdez continued to reach behind the driver’s seat. He was ultimately removed from the vehicle and taken into custody.
When officers searched his vehicle, they discovered multiple bags of white powder, a black tar substance, a bag of synthetic cannabinoids, assorted prescription pills, small bags, a digital scale and a second loaded handgun in the back seat.
The controlled substances were sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Laboratory. Testing confirmed the substances were cocaine, heroin and 5F-MDMB-PICA – a synthetic cannabinoid.
The defense attempted to convince the jury Valdez possessed the cocaine for personal use and the firearms were not related to any of the drugs. They did not believe those claims and found him guilty as charged.
U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos presided over the trial and set sentencing for Aug. 14, 2019. At that time, Valdez faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a possible $1 million maximum fine. He also faces a minimum of five years for the firearm offense which must be served consecutively to any prison term imposed.
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that mimic the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. These chemical compounds can be applied to carrier mediums such as plant material and ingested using rolling papers, pipes, vaporizers or otherwise taken orally. Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold in small, foil or plastic bags containing dried leaves (resembling potpourri) and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It is commonly sold and known on the street as synthetic marijuana, fake weed, legal and by its popular brand names such as Spice, K2, Kush, Klimaxx and many others.
In custody since his arrest, Valdez will remain in custody pending sentencing.
The Corpus Christi Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lance Watt and Joel Dunn are prosecuting the case.