Federal And State Authorities Arrest Del Rio-based Texas Mexican Mafia Members On Federal Charges
United States Attorney Robert Pitman, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Armando Fernandez, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Vincent Iglio, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier Pena, and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw announced today that seven Del Rio, Texas-based members and associates of the Texas Mexican Mafia (TMM) have been arrested based on a federal indictment charging Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violations as well as narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. An eighth TMM associate was arrested for Misprision of a Felony. A ninth TMM associate was indicted for cocaine trafficking in a separate indictment and remains at large.
Those arrested, and charged by indictment include: 43-year-old Jesus Meza, Jr.; 43-year-old Jose Cardona, aka “Tinga”; 46-year-old Roberto Villarreal, aka “Flaco”; 40-year-old Ricardo Zapata, aka “Richie”; 29-year-old Daniel Rosario Lara, aka “Diablo”; 20-year-old Joel Costilla, aka “Sharky”; 26-year-old Joe Lee Jimenez; 21-year-old Ray Salgado; 20-year-old Jessica Meza. 29-year-old Pedro Armando Cardona remains at large.
A federal grand jury indictment, returned on February 27, 2013, and unsealed today, alleges that since June 1, 2010, the seven defendants charged with conspiring to violate the RICO Act were members or associates of the TMM and engaged in a pattern of extortion, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, and gun smuggling. The TMM is alleged to have transported bulk shipments of marijuana on behalf of a narcotics distributer based in Mexico affiliated with the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization and supplied firearms to narcotics traffickers based in Mexico. The indictment also alleges that the defendants conspired to extort money from narcotics traffickers operating in Del Rio through the coercive collection of a ten percent drug tax, also known as “the dime.” Collection of “the dime” was enforced by robbery, serious bodily injury or other acts of violence.
The indictment also charges defendants Meza, Lara, and Costilla with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; defendants Meza, Cardona, Salgado, Costilla, and Jimenez with possession with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine; defendants Meza, Villarreal, and Costilla with smuggling an AR-15 style assault rifle to Mexico; and defendant Meza is charged with being in possession of six assault rifles after previously being convicted of a felony offense.
Upon conviction, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison on the RICO charge; between 5 and 40 years in federal prison for the marijuana charge; up to 20 years in prison on the cocaine charge; and up to 10 years in prison for each firearm charge.
Jessica Meza is facing two counts of Misprision of a Felony—alleging that she knowingly concealed the drug distribution crimes of others—and faces up to three years in prison for each count.
An additional indictment charges Pedro Armando Cardona with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine as well as possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
All eight defendants in custody had their initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Victor Garcia today. All eight were detained pending a detention hearing set for 9:00am on Friday March 8, 2013.
According to FBI Special Agent in Charge Fernandez, "Today's arrests confirm our on-going and collective efforts to continue the dismantling of the Texas Mexican Mafia wherever we find them operating."
"Today’s arrests show our collective resolve in Del Rio to attack and dismantle these dangerous street gangs," said Vincent Iglio, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI San Antonio. He went on to say that, "HSI remains committed to identifying gang members and removing them from the streets in the name of public safety.”
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with Homeland Security Investigations, the Texas Department of Public Safety--Criminal Investigations Division, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also assisted in the investigation. This case will be prosecuted in the Del Rio Division of the Western District of Texas.
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.