In El Paso, 36-year-old Manuel Gerardo Velasquez (aka “Shorty”), an El Paso cell ringleader for the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization, will remain in federal custody pending trial for allegedly operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) responsible for the smuggling and distribution of more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and the repatriation of drug proceeds to the Republic of Mexico announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit.
This morning, Velasquez waived his right to a detention hearing originally scheduled for today in United States Magistrate Court in El Paso. A 13-count federal grand jury indictment returned on August 7, 2013, charges Velasquez and others with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. The indictment alleges that from January 1997 until the present, the defendants conspired to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana throughout Texas, Oklahoma and into Kansas. In addition to the drug conspiracy charge, Velasquez is charged with one count of operating a continual criminal enterprise, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, eight counts of aiding and abetting the intentional possession of marijuana; and, two counts of maintaining a drug involved premise. The indictment also seeks the criminal forfeiture of proceeds derived from the criminal scheme including cash and eight real estate properties in El Paso; Afton, OK; and, Grove, OK. During this investigation, authorities have seized some 3,800 pounds of marijuana and approximately $10,000 in U.S. Currency.
Other defendants charged in this indictment include: 39-year-old Jose Antonio Cabral-Espinoza, a Mexican citizen residing in El Paso; 30-year-old Juan Carlos Campa-Gutierrez of Juarez, Mexico; 44-year-old Cesar Ricardo Olague-Duran, of Juarez, Mexico; 47-year-old Octavio Alonso Montenegro-Muniz of El Paso; 58-year-old Cecil Ellis Blythe of Afton, OK; 32-year-old Carlos Alberto Gijon of El Paso; 31-year-old Daniel Medina of El Paso; 44-year-old Mario Garcia-Reveles, a Mexican citizen residing in El Paso; 31-year-old Joshua Lee Harris of Wichita, KS; 61-year-old Richard Lee Harris of Wichita, KS; 31-year-old Endi Alberto Renteria Bravo of Wichita, KS; 74-year-old Gilberto Velasquez, Sr., of El Paso; 66-year-old Victoria Consuelo Velasquez of El Paso; 52-year-old Sally Barraza-Mena of El Paso; and, 40-year-old Maria Elena Avila of El Paso. Blythe, Gijon, Medina, Gilberto and Victoria Velasquez, Barraza and Avila have been released on bond pending trial. The other named defendants are in custody.
“The numerous arrests and seizures that occurred in this investigation have severely disrupted the operations of this drug trafficking organization. In El Paso and all across our region, DEA and our partners are determined to continue to identify drug traffickers, shut down their operations and bring them to justice,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, El Paso Division.
Velasquez faces between 20 years and life in federal prison upon conviction of the CCE charge. All of the defendants face between ten years and life in federal prison upon conviction of the drug trafficking conspiracy charge.
This case resulted from an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration together with Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service, El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, El Paso Police Department, Anthony Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Office of the Attorney General.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.