South Laredo Trafficking Group Indicted
LAREDO, Texas – A total of 24 alleged members of a cocaine, crack and marijuana trafficking group have been arrested and charged with multiple violations of federal law, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Joseph M. Arabit, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A 25th defendant was also taken into custody and charged by criminal complaint. The defendants are all residents of Laredo.
The indictment was returned under seal April 29, 2014, and unsealed upon the arrest of each defendant today. They are expected to make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Diana Song Quiroga tomorrow.
According to the indictment, the drug trafficking organization was allegedly responsible for distributing cocaine, crack and marijuana throughout the Laredo area, maintaining a drug premises and utilizing minors to distribute the narcotics. The indictment alleges the conspiracy spanned from January 2012 through April 2014.
“DEA and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners are working together to have a positive impact at the local level,” said Arabit. “Together, we are taking these drug dealers off the streets and depriving them of the opportunity to further engage in criminal activity which has adversely affected the quality of life in this region. We are sending a strong and unified message that drug dealing, at all levels, will not be tolerated, and, in turn, we are making our communities safer.”
Rafael Melendez aka “Chon,” 18, was charged in the criminal complaint with possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Those charged in the indictment as part of the conspiracy and taken into custody today include:
Adan Melendez aka “12,” 38
Gerardo Melendez aka “Jerry,” 31
Rafael Andres Melendez aka “Lito,” 42
Mario Alberto Melendez, 34
Mario Alberto Gutierrez aka “Chito,” 38
Roberto Daniel Perez aka “Danny,” 36
Adan Melendez Jr. aka “Vivi,” 20
Jesus Rosendo Garcia-Melendez aka “Goldy,” 21
Juan Jose Melendez aka “Pelon,” 31
Maria Guadalupe Melendez aka “Wawi,” 39
Maria Del Rosario Melendez aka “Chayo,” 44
Manuel Hernandez aka “Lolo,” 19
Alejandro Reyes aka “Keiko,” 31
Rene Gabriel Gonzalez aka “Beast,” 46
Carlos Alberto Acosta aka “Pinni,” 36
Jorge Armando Perez, 34
Hertor Manuel Cavazos, 26
Pedro Omar Garza-Cadena, 31
Oscar Sanchez-Avila, 24
Arturo Garcia, 21
Luis Felipe Melendez aka “3,” 22
Julio Eduardo Almazan Jr., 22
Jose Juan Sosa, 19
Jesus Ramirez aka “Playboy,” 19
The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not as yet in custody.
If convicted of the conspiracy, they each face a minimum of five and up to 40 years in federal prison as well as a possible $5 million fine.
Adan Melendez and Hernandez are also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and face a potential sentence of up to life imprisonment, upon conviction.
The indictment also charges Adan Melendez, Rafael Andres Melendez and Roberto Perez with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments along with Mario Gutierrez and Sanchez-Avila who were also indicted for laundering monetary instruments. Each of those convictions carry a maximum 20-year sentence and a possible $500,000 fine.
Adan Melendez and Maria Guadalupe Melendez will further face a potential 20-year sentence and another $500,000 fine if convicted of maintaining a drug-involved premises.
The remaining counts charge multiple defendants with varying criminal violations, to include possession with intent to distribute cocaine, crack or marijuana, employment or use of persons under 18 years of age in drug operations and/or use of a communication facility in a controlled substance violation. Upon conviction, those charges carry varying terms of imprisonment, up to a maximum of 40 years in federal prison and fines up to $1 million.
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorney José Angel Moreno is prosecuting.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.