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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Local Crime Boss and Crew Headed to Federal Prison

LAREDO, Texas – A convicted heroin smuggler who was also the leader of an alien smuggling operation has been ordered to federal prison along with several members of his organization, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez along with Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Acting Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Joel Martinez from the Laredo Sector Border Patrol. Mariano De La Cruz, 32, aka “Rayo” and “El Pelon,” of Laredo, pleaded guilty April 13, 2016, to two different indictments charging him with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute heroin and the alien smuggling conspiracy, respectively.


Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered him to serve a combined sentence of 206 months in federal prison. Also sentenced today were David Cuevas, 25, and Sara Rodriguez, 40, both of Laredo, and Juan Gerardo Rodriguez-Mantos, 34, an undocumented alien from Mexico living in Laredo who was the brother of Rodriguez. They had also pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the alien smuggling conspiracy. Cuevas received a sentence of 60 months in prison, while Rodriguez was ordered to serve 84 months. In sentencing Rodriguez-Mantos, the court considered the fact that he had sexually assaulted some of the victims. He received a 252-month-term of imprisonment for the alien smuggling conspiracy and for being an illegal alien in the United States after deportation. De La Cruz and Cuevas will also serve five years on supervised release following completion of their sentences, while Rodriguez was ordered to serve a three-year-term. Not a U.S. citizen, Rodriguez-Mantos is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.


“HSI is dedicated to working closely with all of our law enforcement partners to effectively in identify, arrest and prosecute individuals involved in exploiting people,” said Folden. "Criminals who illegally smuggle people into and throughout the country place personal profit ahead of public safety. For this reason, HSI will continue to utilize its broad authorities to dismantle human smuggling organizations.”


“I commend the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security representing the Joint Task Force-West South Texas Corridor Laredo Area Team who worked tirelessly to dismantle this organization,”said Joel Martinez. “Their joint efforts represents our commitment in disrupting and dismantling criminal organizations in South Texas.”


In addition to arranging for the shipment of almost two kilograms of heroin from Laredo to Rhode Island, De La Cruz led a multi-city organization that transported at least 140 undocumented aliens from Laredo and Hebbronville to San Antonio and other locations over a one-year-period from late 2014 until his arrest in late 2015. Cuevas was De La Cruz’s second in command. In that role, he relayed messages to and from De La Cruz, who was running the organization from prison. Rodriguez operated stash houses in Laredo for De La Cruz and also transported aliens to the brush where smugglers would then guide them around Border Patrol checkpoints.


Rodriguez-Mantos assisted his sister in running the stash houses, maintained order among the aliens and was a part-time foot guide. During that time, he sexually-assaulted some of the undocumented female aliens and brutalized other aliens who refused to comply with his orders. At times, he demonstrated his authority with a baseball bat and threatened them with a rifle that he claimed was a “BB” gun.


Cuevas was permitted to remain on bond and voluntarily surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. De La Cruz and the others have been and will remain in custody.


Three others who also pleaded to the alien smuggling conspiracy were sentenced previously to terms ranging from 24-36 months in prison.


In the drug conspiracy, Juan Contreras, 29, of La Vernia, received a 60-month-term of imprisonment for physically transporting the heroin to Rhode Island.


HSI and Border Patrol conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Homero Ramirez prosecuted the case.

Drug Trafficking
Human Smuggling
Updated July 26, 2017