Mexican Foreign National Convicted of Methamphetamine Trafficking
HOUSTON – A federal jury sitting in Houston has convicted a 34-year-old man for conspiracy and methamphetamine smuggling, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. The jury deliberated for less than three hours following a three-day trial before convicting Rogelio Rivera Benito aka Mecanico, who illegally resided in Houston, for the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
The jury heard testimony from co-defendant Mexican national Genaro Pavon Pena that Benito operated stash houses in Houston between July 2016 and late 2017. The stash houses were used to produce methamphetamine for distribution in Houston, and Benito and Pena had discussed the movement of methamphetamine and cash proceeds. The jury also heard from law enforcement officers regarding search warrants and seizures of more than 130 kilograms of methamphetamine between November 2016 and February 2018.
Benito removed gasoline tanks from vehicles coming from Mexico to extract liquid methamphetamine which was later processed into crystalized methamphetamine for distribution. Authorities seized 27 kilograms of methamphetamine April 4, 2017, which was directly tied to a stash house belonging to Pena. Testimony demonstrated that Benito delivered at least 25 kilos of methamphetamine he produced at his residence to the Pena residence before the seizure. Pena testified that the organization moved at least 500 kilograms of methamphetamine during the course of the conspiracy.
The defense argued that authorities did not seize drugs directly from Benito and that Pena falsely testified in order to receive a lesser sentence for his previous conviction. The jury was not convinced and convicted Benito as charged.
U.S. District Judge David Hittner presided over trial and set sentencing for Dec. 6, 2019. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Pena, 32, and Edwin Sanchez-Villa, 27, of Houston, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy and are set for sentencing Nov. 5 and 20, 2019, respectively. All three men face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison.
The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. U.S. Attorneys Edward Gallagher and Abe Martinez are prosecuting the case.