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Press Release

Several convicted in family-run illegal gambling businesses

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

LAREDO, Texas – A total of seven local residents have been convicted of conspiring to conduct illegal gambling in Webb and Zapata counties, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Hilda Diana Guerra-Villarrea, 74, Raul Rene Villarreal, 51, and Alma Urania Garcia, 33, all of Zapata, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to conduct and conducting illegal gambling at locations in Webb and Zapata counties.

Four others - Rodolfo Ricardo Villarreal Jr., 37, Juan Vasco, 52, and Ruben Samuel Villarreal, 28, all from Zapata and Maria Mendieta, 42, Bruni - entered their pleas to the same charges in 2022.

The investigation revealed a complex conspiracy which began in 2019. As part of the scheme, various members of the Villarreal family conspired to operate a family-run illegal gambling business at multiple establishments in Webb and Zapata Counties near the city of Laredo. This included the Lucky Spins (Red Barn) in Bruni, Desert Diamond in Falcon and Golden Amusement in Zapata.

Members of the family and their close associates owned and operated the establishments and illegally made cash payouts to customers.

As part of her plea today, Guerra-Villarreal agreed to the forfeiture of an estimated $2.6 million in the form of land, buildings and gambling machines.

U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana will impose sentencing for all at a later date. At those hearings, each faces up to five years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

All seven have been permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.

Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case with assistance from the Laredo Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and Webb County District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Francisco J. Rodriguez, Mary Ellen Smyth, Gerard Cantu and Matthew Isaac are prosecuting the case.

Updated April 24, 2023