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Justice News

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Texas Syndicate Members Convicted In Federal Court In Del Rio

In Del Rio, three Texas Syndicate members from Uvalde, TX, face up to life in federal prison after a federal jury convicted them last night of various violations of federal racketeering offenses committed in Uvalde, San Antonio and the surrounding areas announced United States Attorney Robert Pitman.

Jurors convicted 38-year-old Raul “Fatboy” Rodriquez, 37-year-old Mike “Big Mike” Cassiano and 35-year-old Cristobal “Little Cris” Velasquez of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute.  Evidence presented during the trial revealed that Rodriquez, Cassiano and Velasquez, along with eleven other Texas Syndicate members and associates, conspired since 2002 to commit three murders, one attempted murder, extortion, plus distribution of controlled substances.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, jurors convicted:

  • Rodriquez of a violent crime in aid of racketeering, namely the murder of Rogelio Mata in Uvalde, Texas on October 13, 2002, for allegedly failing to follow the rules of the Texas Syndicate;
  • Velasquez of conspiracy to commit violent crime in aid of racketeering and the substantive charge of violent crime in aid of racketeering for the murder of Jose Guadalupe de la Garza on December 25, 2005, in Uvalde, Texas for allegedly disrespecting the Texas Syndicate as well as conspiracy to commit robbery in violation of the RICO statute; and,
  • Cassiano, who previously held a leadership role in the criminal organization in 2005, of two counts of conspiracy to commit violent crime in aid of racketeering for the Jose Guadalupe de la Garza murder and the November 9, 2009, murder of Jesse James Polanco in Uvalde.  Mr. Polanco was murdered because it was suspected he was cooperating with law enforcement.

The following 11 co-defendants are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty prior to trial to violating the RICO statute:  Sotero Rodriguez Martinez (a.k.a. “June”) of Uvalde; Chuco Mario Martinez (a.k.a. “Mariachi”) of Uvalde; Jose Andres Torres (a.k.a “Yogi”) of Uvalde; Larry Munoz, Jr. (a.k.a. “Little Larry”) of Uvalde; Brian Esparza (a.k.a. “Tata”) of Uvalde; Charles Esparza (a.k.a. “Horse”) of Uvalde; Ervey Sanchez (a.k.a. “Mad Max”) of Uvalde; Inez Mata (a.k.a. “Bebito”) of Uvalde; Mark Anthony Vela of Hondo, Texas; Mario Alberto Gonzales (a.k.a. “The Enforcer”) of Hondo; and, Charles Olan Quintanilla of Hondo.

In a separate, but related matter, on June 20, 2013, a federal jury in Del Rio returned guilty verdicts against Eli Torres and Alfredo Tapia III, the last two defendants involved in a narcotics distribution ring operating in Hondo, Uvalde, San Antonio and the surrounding areas.  This narcotics distribution ring was connected to and associated with the Texas Syndicate prison gang. 

Jurors convicted 37-year-old Eli Torres of Uvalde of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine from August 1, 2009, until September 28, 2011.  Evidence presented at trial revealed that Torres, as a member of the Texas Syndicate, participated in this drug distribution ring by using the organization’s drug distribution connections to aid him in obtaining cocaine to sell on the streets of Uvalde.  Torres faces between ten years and life in federal prison for this conviction.  Torres was also found guilty of possession with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of the Sacred Heart Parish School in Uvalde.  As a result, he faces between five and 80 years in prison for this conviction.  Torres, who remains in federal custody, awaits sentencing scheduled for December 16, 2013.

Jurors also convicted 42-year-old Alfredo “Naco” Tapia, III, of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine from August 1, 2009, until September 28, 2011.  He was also found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana from August 1, 2009 until September 28, 2011.  Tapia faces between five and 40 years in federal prison for each conviction.  Evidence presented at trial revealed that Tapia was associated with members of the Texas Syndicate prison gang and facilitated their distribution of cocaine and marijuana.

The other members of the conspiracy listed below are all awaiting sentencing after entering guilty pleas prior to trial.  They include: Jose Alberto Ruiz (a.k.a. “Spike”), of Uvalde; Calletano Nira (a.k.a. “Cat) of Hondo; Joshua Leonard Benavides of Hondo; Ted Benavides (a.k.a. “TJ”) of Hondo; Jessica Escareno of Hondo; Ruben Dominguez of Hondo; Sandra Torres of Uvalde; Jaime Corona, Jr., of Hondo; John Khosravi of San Antonio; and, former Bandera County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Cuellar of Hondo.  On April 2, 2013, Cuellar pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful use of a government computer and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.  By pleading guilty, Cuellar admitted that on August 31, 2010, he unlawfully accessed a department computer in order to obtain law enforcement information regarding co-conspirators.  As a result, Cuellar faces up to twenty years in federal prison on the drug charge and up to five years in federal prison on the unlawful access charge. Only Cuellar and Sandra Torres are currently on bond pending sentencing; all other defendants remain in federal custody.

These prosecutions resulted from a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the Texas Department of Public Safety--Criminal Investigations Division, San Antonio Police Department, Medina County Sheriff’s Office and the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office.  Also assisting in the investigation was the 38th Judicial District Adult Probation Gang Unit, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.  The U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Customs and Border Protection and the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department assisted in making the arrests. These cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Erica Giese, Ralph Paradiso and Patrick Burke.

Updated December 15, 2014