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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, February 25, 2019

South Texas Father and Son Admit to Using Racehorses to Facilitate Drug Trafficking

VICTORIA, Texas - Two members of a prolific transnational, transgenerational drug trafficking organization have pleaded guilty as their trial was set to begin in Victoria federal court, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Raul Beltran Jr., 50, and his son Edward Beltran, 24, both of Rio Grande City, pleaded guilty today as they were set to begin trial before U.S. District Judge John Rainey.

The Beltran men admitted to massive amounts of drug smuggling - thousands of kilograms of marijuana. 

The investigation began in January 2013 after a Victoria County Sheriff’s Office deputy interdicted approximately 600 pounds of marijuana concealed in a horse trailer. The trailer also contained two racehorses.

That event prompted a lengthy, multiple-agency, multi-jurisdictional investigation that would ultimately uncover information and evidence demonstrating the illegal activities of the Beltran drug trafficking organization. The Beltrans used their horse ranches in Rio Grande City to receive, repackage and conceal thousands of kilograms of marijuana in horse trailers, flat-bed trailers and tractor trailers to ship the marijuana to all points north. They used the sport of horse racing to facilitate drug smuggling and to launder illicit proceeds.

The organization also utilized violence, intimidation, bribery and public corruption to facilitate and perpetuate their illicit activities for nearly a decade with virtual impunity. The investigation demonstrated the organization’s dealings with ranking members of the Gulf and Zeta Cartels, Starr County Chicano Brotherhood, as well as the involvement of multiple corrupt sworn peace officers assigned in the Rio Grande Valley.

A total of 22 people have now been convicted as a result of this investigation, including a former Starr County Sheriff’s Office deputy. In addition, authorities have seized three horse ranches as well as an American Quarter Horse race stallion named Jet Black Patriot and his breeding proceeds and awards. 

The Beltran men were permitted to remain on bond pending their sentencing hearing, set for June 3, 2019. At that time, they each face up to life in federal prison and a possible $10 million maximum fine.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Hubert Booth is prosecuting the case. 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Component(s): 
Updated February 25, 2019