Long-Time Drug Trafficking Fugitive Ultimately Ordered to Federal Prison
HOUSTON – After 14 years on the run, a 43-year-old Roma man has been ordered to prison following his conviction for conspiring to possess and possession with intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Romeo Eduardo Barrera pleaded guilty Oct. 23, 2017.
Today, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt handed Barrera a 135-month prison sentence to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court found Barrera’s 14-year run warranted an upward adjustment for obstruction of justice and overruled Barrera’s objections to not receiving credit to reduce his sentencing range for acceptance of responsibility. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hoyt noted that the tragedy of this case is that had he not fled and resolved the matter in 2002 when he was much younger, he would have completed his sentence by now and had many years to spend with his family.
A federal grand jury indicted Romeo Eduardo Barrera in September 2002 for federal drug law violations. He was Initially released on bond, but failed to appear for a pretrial conference before Judge Hoyt in Houston in January 2003. A warrant issued for his arrest.
In late May 2017, Barrera was involved in an automobile accident in the Rio Grande Valley. Local law enforcement present at the scene of the accident arrested him upon discovering the outstanding warrant. Barrera made his initial appearance in the McAllen Division and was transferred to Houston to face the long-pending charges. He made his appearance before Judge Hoyt who revoked his previous bond and ordered he be detained pending further criminal proceedings.
The charges against Barrera arise from an investigation initiated in March 6, 2002. At that time, authorities located suspected narcotics traffickers from the Rio Grande Valley at a Houston-area Holiday Inn Express Hotel. Thereafter, law enforcement conducted surveillance during which time they observed Barrera arrive at the hotel and eventually leave with two others. Surveillance of that vehicle ultimately lead investigating officers to a residence on Northfield in Houston. There, investigating agents watched Barrera and seven other defendants entering and exiting the residence, using trash cans to remove large bales of marijuana and load them into a van parked nearby.
When officers approached, Barrera fled the scene along with all but one of the others. Authorities arrested Barrera shortly thereafter on a nearby street. During the chase, Barrera held 386.6 grams of marijuana wrapped in clear cellophane and a yellow sheet of paper with figures written on it.
In the Northfield residence, officers also found 31 cellophane-wrapped bales of marijuana weighing a total of approximately 1644 pounds along with an additional 154 grams of marijuana, 30 used and new duffle bags, two digital scales, wrapping materials, calculators, drug ledgers and three firearms.
In the parked van, investigating officers also found and seized 19 cellophane-wrapped bales of marijuana with an approximate total weight of 928.55 pounds.
Barrera will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police department and the FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy G. Herrera is prosecuting the case.