Several Charged with Trafficking Marijuana for Cartel Members in Mexico
McALLEN, Texas - A total of nine people are in custody following law enforcement actions in multiple cities that began on Thursday involving a drug trafficking organization operating throughout South Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Those arrested locally include Evelina Bermea, 32, of La Grulla; Wenceslao Ortiz, 62, Maggie L. Montoya, 26, Daniel Herrera, 23, and Luis Hernandez, 24, all of Rio Grande City; and Joshua Serna, 25, of Roma. All have made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby who ordered them temporarily into custody pending a detention hearing Dec. 21, 2016. Two others - Joselyn Rivera, 24, of Rio Grande City; and Jordan Bermea, 28, of La Grulla - were arrested yesterday in Houston and Galveston, respectively. They were also temporarily ordered into custody pending a hearing Dec. 20, 2016. The ninth defendant - Jesus Alanis, 25, from Roma – was already in custody on unrelated charges.
Each are charged respectively in a total of four indictments, returned under seal Nov. 8, 2016, and unsealed upon their arrests. The indictments allege the conspiracies ran from May 2013 to February 2014. According to the indictments, this organization was specifically tasked with receiving and transporting large quantities of marijuana smuggled into the United States by cartel members to Houston.
This investigation was initiated in May 2013 and targeted the Maria Ortiz drug trafficking organization. The organization allegedly exploited illegal aliens and tasked them with carrying backpacks of marijuana from locations throughout South Texas until the organization could get the marijuana to Houston. The first indictment charged cell leaders Rosa Maria Barrera, 50, and Maria Guadalupe Ortiz, 36, both of Roma. Barrera and Ortiz have pleaded guilty for their roles and are pending sentencing.
Each of the nine announced today is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, as well as a varying numbers of substantive drug possession charges. If convicted, they face a minimum of five and up to 40 years in prison.
The charges are the result of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Crash and Burn. The Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation with assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service, Texas Department of Public Safety, Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force, Laredo Independent School District Police and Border Patrol.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Pat Profit and K. Alejandra Andrade are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.