Valley Narcotics Trafficker/Money Launderer Sentenced to Prison
OCT 30 -- (CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) – Rene Gonzales, 45, of Donna, Texas, has been sentenced to concurrent sentences of 292 months in prison for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and 240 months in prison for conspiring to money launder the proceeds of his narcotics trafficking, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. The Honorable Chief District Judge Hayden Head handed down the sentences on Monday, Oct. 26, 2009.
On Aug. 26, 2008, Gonzales, Israel Sanchez and 16 others were charged in a nine-count indictment returned by a McAllen grand jury for their alleged involvement in receiving thousands of kilograms of marijuana smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, storing the contraband in Rio Grande Valley area stash houses and transporting and distributing the marijuana to others in Houston and elsewhere beginning in 1998. Sanchez and Gonzales were also among 13 others charged with collecting and laundering millions of dollars generated by the sale of the marijuana. The proceeds were allegedly used to promote Sanchez’s illegal activity through the purchases of residences used to stash, store or package marijuana, as well as the purchase of various properties which assisted Sanchez in laundering the derived proceeds.
Sanchez’s arrest on June 18, 2008, came after the conclusion of a three-year joint Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation conducted by Corpus Christi and McAllen area law enforcement agencies which included special agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), and officers of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office.
In 1998, Sanchez began transporting multi-ton quantities of marijuana from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston and Atlanta, Ga., and elsewhere utilizing tractor-trailers. Gonzales and others began assisting Sanchez’s organization in 2003. The resulting proceeds which totaled tens of millions of dollars were then transported back to Sanchez and those working with him by money couriers. These profits were then used to buy additional stash locations, as well as other properties to include hotels and restaurants. In addition, Sanchez utilized other money couriers to transport bulk currency from the United States into Mexico.
Gonzales was also ordered to serve a supervised release term of 10 years upon his release from prison. On May 7, 2009, Sanchez, 49, of Mission, Texas, received concurrent sentences of 28 years (336 months) in prison for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and 240 months prison for laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. Sanchez was also fined $100,000 for each count and ordered to serve a five-year-term of supervised release upon his release from custody. In addition to the 28-year prison term, Sanchez along with his wife, Gloria Sanchez, forfeited their interest in several pieces of real estate in the Rio Grande Valley and Houston, including a restaurant located in McAllen, Texas.
Others who have been sentenced include Benigno De La Cruz - 120 months for conspiracy to possess narcotics, Alberto Espinosa - 120 months for conspiracy to possess narcotics and money laundering, Gloria Espinosa - 60 months for conspiracy to money launder, Ismael Saenz - 168 months for conspiracy to possess narcotics and money laundering, Rene Gonzalez Jr. - 168 months for conspiracy to possess marijuana, Raul Medina - 196 months for conspiracy to possess marijuana, Zacarias Moncivais - 235 months for conspiracy to possess marijuana, Cristina Cardenas Guevara - 87 months for conspiracy to money launder, Gloria Sanchez - 72 months for conspiracy to money launder and Ycemia Yanez Gonzales - 60 months for conspiracy to money launder.
The case was being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney James Sturgis of the McAllen office.