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Justice News

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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Federal and State Authorities Arrest 23 Individuals Today in Relation to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Distribution Operations in Permian Basin

In Midland and Odessa this morning, authorities arrested 23 individuals on federal drug and firearms charges announced Acting United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy, El Paso Division, and Midland Police Chief Price Robinson.

Federal grand jury indictments returned yesterday charge 21 of those arrested, as well as five other individuals who were already in custody prior to today and seven who are still at large, for alleged drug trafficking offenses or federal firearms violations stemming from two separate investigations.   Two arrested today were charged by federal criminal complaints filed this morning.  A complete list of defendants is below.

In the Cortez investigation, authorities arrested 14 individuals, including 30–year-old ringleader Andrew Cortez of Midland.  Cortez is a partial owner and operator of a family business called “Alfredo’s Paleteria” with stores in Midland, Odessa, San Angelo and Fort Stockton.  Authorities allege that Cortez, along with his 32-year-old brother, Albert Cortez, used the business operation as fronts for cocaine distribution.  According to court records, the defendants allegedly conspired since February 2014 to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

In the Derington investigation, authorities arrested a total of nine individuals on federal drug charges, including ringleader 33-year-old Brandon Derington of Midland.  Authorities allege that Derington and the other defendants conspired since February 2014 to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute it throughout the Permian Basin area.  Ruben Long, a 35-year-old Midland resident who was also arrested today, is charged by federal indictment with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  Tiffany Thetford, age 26 of Odessa, and Michael Johnson, age 58 of Odessa were two non-indicted individuals arrested this morning in connection with the Derington investigation. Both have been charged by federal criminal complaints following their arrests.  Thetford is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm; Johnson, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

During these investigations, authorities have seized 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 12 firearms, approximately $127,000 in U.S. Currency as well as two additional money seizures of unknown quantity.

“Today’s enforcement operations dismantled two separate but significant drug trafficking organizations involved in the distribution and trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamine in the Permian Basin.  Jointly, through the hard work and dedication of our agents along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, these criminal organizations will now face west Texas justice,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy, El Paso Division.

Upon conviction, the defendants face sentences of between ten years and life in federal prison; between five and 40 years in federal prison; or, up to 20 years in federal prison depending on the amount of controlled substances involved.  Thetford and Long each face ten years in federal prison upon conviction of the felon in possession charge.  All of the defendants remain in federal custody.  Detention hearings are scheduled for February 3, 2015, and February 9, 2015, in Midland before United States Magistrate Judge David Counts.

These federal charges and arrests resulted from investigations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Midland Police Department and the Ector County Sheriff’s Office together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office.  The United States Marshals Service and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Air Support Unit assisted in making today’s arrests.  These matters are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brandi Young.

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.


Cortez investigation defendants

Name                                       Age      Residence        Charge                                                 Exposure

*Andrew Cortez                        30        Odessa             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine            10 years to life
*Jose Dominguez                     37        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine            5 to 40 years
*Daniel Yearicks                       32        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine            up to 20 years 
*Guillermo Borunda                  19        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine            up to 20 years
*Manuel Valensuela                 43        Odessa              Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine            up to 20 years
*Albert Cortez                           32       Odessa              Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
*Fidel Segura                           23        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
*Benito Sanchez                      44        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
*Ramiro Castillo                       56        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
*Jose Valenzuela                     39        Odessa             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years 
*Curtis White                            28        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
*Raul Saldana                          22        Odessa             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             10 years to life
*Jose Gardea                           25        Odessa             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             10 years to life
*Miriam Saenz                         30        Odessa             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine              up to 20 years
**Avelardo Castillo                   25        Stanton, TX       Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             up to 20 years
***Alejandro Esquivel              40        Odessa              Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine             10 years to life
***Gabriel Miller                       30        Denver City       Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine              5 to 40 years
***Paul Hicks                           34        Midland             Conspiracy to PWITD Cocaine              10 years to life


Derington investigation defendants

Name                                       Age      Residence           Charge                                                   Exposure

*Brandon Derington                  33        Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                   10 years to life
*Chris Wayne Grimes               41        Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                   10 years to life
*Steven Egge                           45         Odessa               Possess w/Intent To Distribute Meth     up to 20 years
*John Steven Renfro                48         Big Spring, TX    Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                   up to 20 years
*Jeffrey Lynn Lane                   52         Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                   up to 20 years
*Lacy Brooks                            32         Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                   up to 20 years
*Ruben Long                            35         Odessa               Felon in possession of firearm              10 years
*Michael Johnson                    58         Odessa                Possess w/Intent To Distribute Meth    up to 20 years
*Tiffany Thetford                      26         Odessa               Felon in possession of firearm              10 years
**Sherry Ledford                      44         Midland               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  up to 20 years
**Olivia Ramon                        18         Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  10 years to life
**Juan Martin Arteaga             44         Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  10 years to life
**Eddie Herbert Alviso            62          Riverside, CA     Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  10 years to life
***Bryant Douglas Black         50          California            Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  10 years to life
***Danny Ray Blakely             28          Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  up to 20 years
***Wesley Williford                  41          Odessa               Conspiracy to PWITD Meth                  up to 20 years
***Ruben Mancha                   53          Andrews, TX       Possess w/Intent To Distribute Meth    up to 20 years

* Arrested today
** Already in custody prior to today
*** Fugitive


Drug Trafficking
Updated February 2, 2015