Marijuana Trafficking Via Intracoastal Waterway Sends Kingsville Man To Prison
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Michael "Mickey" Pena, 46, of Kingsville, has been ordered to prison following his conviction of conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A federal jury convicted Pena on Feb. 4, 2013, after less than one day of trial and only 30 minutes of deliberation.
Today, Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who presided over the trial, handed Pena a sentence of 97 months. Pena asked the court’s forgiveness and stated he had fallen on hard economic times. In handing down the sentence, Judge Jack told Pena that “you have choices when you go down this road.” She further noted that even though he was a minor participant in the conspiracy, she would not impose a more lenient sentence because Pena perjured himself at trial and did not accept responsibility until after the jury’s verdict. Pena will be required to serve a term of four years of supervised release following completion of the prison term.
During trial, the government proved Pena participated in a drug trafficking organization that transported large amounts of marijuana concealed in the hulls of altered shallow-bottom fishing boats. The drugs were transported via the intra-coastal waterway from Port Mansfield to Corpus Christi in an effort to circumvent Border Patrol checkpoints in Falfurrias and Sarita. Testimony revealed that in early 2012, organization members deconstructed a 21-foot Dargel Scout fishing boat, loaded the hull of the vessel with more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana and rebuilt the deck of the boat over the course of 20 days. The boat was then launched in Port Mansfield. Co-defendant Rogelio Mendoza then drove it north in the intracoastal waterway. Marine interdiction agents with Customs and Border Protection intercepted the vessel just south of Corpus Christi.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Pena, who arrived at marker 37 with an empty boat trailer shortly after the boat was intercepted, had registered the vessel in his name two weeks earlier. Certified state documents showed that the previous owner of both the boat and the empty trailer were members of the organization. Agents also testified that they had conducted surveillance of organization members scouting boat ramps near marker 37 about six weeks before the seizure and then immediately drove to Pena’s Kingsville residence.
Mendoza, 38, and five other members of the conspiracy have previously pleaded guilty before U.S. district judges in Corpus Christi and have been or are awaiting sentencing. Those include Alberto Lopez aka Alberto Lopez-Reyna, 40, Lombardo Zarate, 50, Glen Dial, 57, Luz Ramirez, 26, and Hector Perez-Gonzalez, 40.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations with the assistance of the Kingsville Narcotics Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeffrey D. Preston.