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Press Release

Local man sent to prison after helping traffic over 250 kilograms of meth in gas tank

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

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A 42-year-old Brownsville resident has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute liquid meth, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Ernesto Vargas pleaded guilty March 7 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute approximately 253.2 kilograms of liquid meth.

U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera has now ordered Vargas to serve 240 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted his extensive criminal history and the seriousness of his conduct.

Vargas was responsible for helping Pedro Rodriguez III, 45, San Benito, transport the narcotics.

On Jan. 11, law enforcement conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle Rodriguez was driving after he switched lanes without signaling. They soon discovered Rodriguez had several pending state arrest warrants and took him into custody.

As they conducted a search of his vehicle, they found approximately 253.2 kilograms of liquid meth hidden inside an auxiliary gas tank. Rodriguez admitted he knew the meth was inside the gas tank and had agreed to transport the narcotics from South Texas to Dallas.

The meth had an estimated street value of over $650,000.

The investigation revealed Vargas and Rodriguez received the liquid meth from co-conspirators in Mexico and planned to transport the meth northwards so it could be divided for distribution. Law enforcement took Vargas into custody June 12, 2022.

Rodriguez was previously ordered to serve 120 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release.

Vargas will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation with the assistance of the San Benito Police Department. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

Updated July 12, 2023

Drug Trafficking