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Justice News

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Weslaco Man Convicted Of Marijuana Trafficking

LAREDO, Texas – Santiago Martinez, 37, of Weslaco, has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

A Laredo grand jury returned an indictment Dec. 3, 2013, which alleged Martinez acted as a leader and organizer within a drug trafficking organization that purchased and transported marijuana from the United States-Mexico border to regional distributors in Memphis, Tenn., and Tampa, Fla. 

According to court documents, the organization used “low boy” trailers and recreational camping trailers with hidden compartments to transport the marijuana, in 300 to 500 kilogram loads, twice per month. Proceeds from the sale and transportation of this marijuana were collected and sent back to South Texas. These proceeds were placed in hidden compartments in tractor trailers or recreational camping trailers or were deposited into numerous bank accounts.  

Since 2001, law enforcement has seized more than 5,000 kilograms of marijuana and more than $1.3 million tied to this drug trafficking organization. The largest seizure of marijuana occurred on Jan. 7, 2011, at which time two tractors, hauling “low boy” trailers, arrived approximately one hour apart at the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 1017 east of Hebbronville. Inside hidden compartments in the trailers, agents found more than a 1000 kilograms of marijuana. One tractor was headed to Memphis and the other to Tampa.

The largest cash seizure occurred on Aug. 4, 2012, in Florida when law enforcement officers found seven bundles of money, totaling $831,539 in a lead-lined hidden compartment in a camping trailer.

Martinez admitted he purchased the marijuana and arranged for its transportation and that a number of the vehicles used by this organization were titled in his name. Martinez further admitted he conspired to move more than 10,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Martinez will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing to be set in the near future. At that time, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison as well as a $10 million fine for the drug conspiracy. The United States is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of $11,555,000 based on the amount of marijuana transported by the organization during the span of the conspiracy.

The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration with the assistance of the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth R. Rabe is prosecuting the case.

Updated April 30, 2015