MIDLAND, TX -- DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit and United States Attorney John E. Murphy announced the arrests of two Midland-Odessa area members and one associate of the Barrio Azteca (BA) criminal organization on federal drug charges. The charges stem from a year-and-a-half-long investigation into the organization’s alleged racketeering activities including extortion, drug distribution, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery and the attempted murder of a Midland resident in October 2009.
Those arrested earlier today include BA members Frederico Duran, Jr., age 27, and Miguel Nieto, age 31, as well as BA associate Venessa Rico Flores, age 29. Six BA member co-defendants–36-year-old Ramon Morales; 32-year-old Santos Almanza; 46-year-old Benito Gonzalez; 34-year-old Stephen Marcos Corona; 40year-old Carlos Hernandez; and, 32-year-old Juan Cortez–were already in custody prior to today’s arrests.
A three-count federal grand jury indictment, returned on June 22, 2011 and unsealed today, charges the nine defendants with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine as well as marijuana. The indictment also charges Almanza, Flores, Nieto and Hernandez with one count of violating the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute and one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute.
The indictment alleges that since January 2006, the defendants have conspired to carry out the mission of the BA criminal organization through a pattern of smuggling and distributing cocaine and marijuana, robbery, extortion, as well as violence and intimidation in and around the Midland-Odessa area. The indictment states that defendants Duran, Morales and Almanza were the leaders of the Midland-Odessa BA enterprise who directed other members in carrying out the mission of the organization. Among the various overt acts charged, the indictment specifically alleges that Almanza unlawfully and knowingly attempted to murder a Midland resident on or about October 20, 2009. The indictment also alleges that defendants Almanza, Flores, Nieto and Hernandez each agreed to commit at least two acts of racketeering activity while conducting the affairs of the criminal organization.
“Citizens of the Midland/Odessa area should be able to live without fear and intimidation by violent street gangs,” said Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration-El Paso Division. “The results of this investigation send a strong message to those who would threaten the safety of our communities that we will use all tools available to us, including drug and racketeering laws, to put an end to their illegal activities.”
Upon conviction, each defendant faces up to life in federal prison. It is important to note that 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. This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration together with the Midland Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney John Klassen.The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents, and their children to visit the following interactive websites at www.GetSmartAboutDrugs.com, www.JustThinkTwice.comand www.dea.gov.