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Press Release

Pharr Man Admits Drug Crimes And Cartel Ties Via Facebook, Heads To Federal Prison

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

McALLEN, Texas – Erick Ochoa-Rodriguez, 19, of Pharr, has been ordered to prison for almost 10 years following his convictions for conspiring to possess and actually possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute the controlled substance to another, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A federal jury in McAllen convicted Ochoa-Rodriguez on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, after nearly three days of trial.

Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who presided over the trial, handed Ochoa-Rodriguez a total of 115 months in federal prison which will be followed by a four-year-term of supervised release. At the hearing today, the government presented additional evidence showing Ochoa-Rodriguez to be a cartel operative involved in drug and firearms trafficking, bulk cash smuggling and cartel violence. In many of the Facebook posts introduced at the sentencing hearing, he bragged about trafficking cocaine, selling firearms, recruiting drug dealers and even kidnapping other rival drug dealers before taking them to Mexico where they would be tortured and killed.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Alvarez noted the evidence introduced at trial and during the hearing today indicated that Ochoa-Rodriguez was “in the [drug trafficking] business” and had “embraced this life as a drug trafficker.” Judge Alvarez went on to say that any other sentence would only serve to “encourage this lifestyle” and his continuing “disregard for the law.” Judge Alvarez further mentioned that while the defendant’s age would usually serve to lessen his sentence, he has repeatedly relied upon his age to manipulate law enforcement and the courts.

Ochoa-Rodriguez was charged in an indictment returned on Nov. 13, 2012. During trial, the government presented photos, maps and witness testimony illustrating his attempt to receive 175 kilograms of marijuana from unknown individuals carrying the drugs from the border.

On Oct. 29, 2012, Border Patrol agents encountered Ochoa-Rodriguez as he drove his vehicle to a planned rendezvous near a levee within two miles of the border with seven individuals who had carried marijuana bundles from the Rio Grande River. He immediately fled, first in his vehicle and then on foot into a densely forested area. Agents ultimately located him as he was lying in the fetal position within dense overgrowth through the use of a canine unit, trackers and aircraft. 

The government also proved this was not the defendant’s first encounter with law enforcement. Additional evidence demonstrated that Ochoa-Rodriguez received 125 kilograms of marijuana from undercover federal agents on June 11, 2012, before successfully fleeing law enforcement on that occasion. Further investigation revealed his growing ties with Mexican Drug Cartels and his involvement in cocaine and firearms trafficking, money laundering and other cartel-related crimes. The government introduced photographs depicting Ochoa-Rodriguez with firearms and large sums of Untied States currency.   

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

This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Grady J. Leupold is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 30, 2015