Skip to main content
Press Release

Several convicted in $16 million cartel drug conspiracy

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

LAREDO, Texas – A total of 22 people in South Texas and Mexico have pleaded guilty for their roles in a conspiracy to transport large quantities of marijuana for Cartel del Noreste (CDN), announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Laredoan Joe David aka JD Moreno, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Throughout the course of the investigation, authorities seized over 35,000 pounds (approximately 17.5 tons) of marijuana valued at approximately $16.4 million.

Moreno admitted to purchasing a utility truck used to transport numerous loads of marijuana throughout Laredo. He coordinated several narcotic smuggling transactions, paid co-conspirators for their involvement and reported directly to cartel leaders in Mexico.

This investigation revealed a complex conspiracy which began in February 2019 and continued through April 2020. Authorities ultimately apprehended Moreno on March 25, 2022, in Monterrey, Mexico.

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana will impose sentencing at a later date. At that time, Moreno faces up to life in federal prison and possible $10 million maximum fine.

A total of 21 other conspirators previously pleaded guilty for their respective roles in transporting narcotics on behalf of CDN.

Moreno has been and will remain in custody pending sentencing. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Laredo Police Department conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Marshals Service; Border Patrol; Customs and Border Protection; FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. National Guard; Webb County District Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Constable’s Office Precincts 1 and 4; Texas Department of Public Safety; and the Blue Indigo Task Force. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Day and Francisco Rodriguez are prosecuting this case.

Updated July 26, 2023

Drug Trafficking