LAREDO, TX - Leandro Salas-Galaviz aka Daniel Obregon, 35, has been sentenced to life in prison for his role as a leader/organizer in a drug and money laundering conspiracy engaged in trafficking kilograms of cocaine and marijuana for the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge, Javier F. Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Salas-Galaviz, of Laredo, Texas, along with three others just a short time ago. Salas-Galaviz was identified as a Laredo based Kingpin with direct ties to Los Zetas.
In addition to his life sentence, a money judgment in the amount of $13 million was entered in addition to a final order of forfeiture for a property at 8413 Deer Ridge Drve in Laredo and a $118,998 money seizure. Also sentenced today were co-conspirators Norberto Alaniz, 37, who was identified as a driver of cocaine loads for the Galaviz organization, along with Salas-Galaviz’s wife, Mayra Lopez, 31, and mother Josefina Galaviz, 55. Alaniz was sentenced to a term of 360 months in prison to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, while Lopez and Galaviz will both serve 135 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Sentencing was reset to January 6, 2012, for his sister, Yesica Magana, 31. At the time of their arrests, all defendants were residing in Laredo with the exception of Galaviz and Magana who resided in Richland Hills, Texas.
In assessing the sentences, the court took into consideration all the testimony and evidence that was presented during the two-week trial of the five defendants in July 2011. During the trial, Salas-Galaviz was identified as being an illegal resident who had lived in Dallas and Laredo since 2002 under the false identity of Daniel Obregon. Salas-Galaviz and Alaniz were charged in a drug conspiracy responsible for shipping multi tons of marijuana and cocaine from the Laredo area to destinations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Chicago and other areas. Salas-Galaviz was identified as having been placed in Laredo by the Gulf Cartel/Zetas and being responsible for finding transportation for marijuana and cocaine shipments. Alaniz was identified as one of many other co-conspirators who assisted Salas-Galaviz in transporting or arranging for the transportation of marijuana and cocaine loads from Laredo to Dallas and other destinations. Salas-Galaviz and his wife, mother and sister were charged as co-conspirators in a money laundering conspiracy which involved the use of multiple bank accounts which were used to conduct financial transactions designed to conceal and disguise the true nature and ownership of the thousands of dollars of cash proceeds deposited and withdrawn from those accounts. According to court records, the co-conspirators also conducted numerous financial transactions through the use of bank accounts and in relation to the purchase and sale of vehicles and real property which were designed in whole or in part to conceal and disguise the true nature, ownership, control and source of the drug proceeds. From 2004 through 2009, almost $2 million in cash drug proceeds were deposited into those accounts. The evidence presented during trial established Lopez and Galaviz invested drug proceeds in a local Laredo business incorporated under the name of Via Italia Devine. A witness testified that in 2003 Galaviz was recorded saying that the drug trafficking job was all about making money. One gets to work well and you get paid well.
Also at the trial, the jury heard testimony about recordings in which Salas-Galaviz is boasting about shipping millions of dollars in drug proceeds back to Mexico for delivery to the Gulf Cartel/Zetas. During recorded conversations, Salas-Galaviz refers to the Gulf Cartel/Zetas as “La Compania” and notes that La Compania has given him power. In a 2007 conversation, he is recorded saying he had been trafficking drugs for the Company for five years. He tells others to think of him as if he were part of “la letra,” a reference to being a Zeta and that if it weren’t for his work in Laredo, they (a reference to the Cartel/Zetas) would not eat. He also discusses having sent millions of dollars to Mexico in tractors for loads of drugs delivered in the United States. Ironically, in yet other conversations, he is heard saying that half the people he started with (in drug trafficking) are dead and the other half are in jail. Salas-Galaviz stated in recordings that, “if they ever arrest me here, I never get out.”
The federal jury returned guilty verdicts on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine against Leandro Salas Galaviz and Alaniz. Galaviz was also found guilty in six additional counts of possession with intent to distribute either cocaine or marijuana. Alaniz was found guilty of an additional count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Salas-Galaviz, Lopez, Josefina Galaviz and Magana were all found guilty of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds. In addition, all four defendants were found guilty of at least one other money laundering count.
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, Operation Reload, was spearheaded by Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigations, which culminated in several indictments being returned in December 2009. Following the unsealing of three indictments in January 2010, law enforcement authorities arrested 29 defendants charged for their roles in the drug and money laundering organization. The investigation spanned more than four years and targeted Laredo-based Zeta linked distribution cells engaged in large-scale marijuana/cocaine trafficking and large-scale money laundering. The investigation yielded 19 separate seizures totaling approximately 8,000 kilos of marijuana, 300 kilos of cocaine and more than $500,000 in cash drug proceeds.
To date, there have been a total of 29 convictions resulting from 23 guilty pleas and two separate jury trials. In addition to the trial that resulted in the conviction of those sentenced today and Magana, a trial in January 2011 resulted in the conviction of Justino Loredo Perez, 48. Galaviz marks the third organizational leader to be convicted and sentenced. Two other leader/organizers -- Omar Compean, 44, and Javier Hugo Perez, 56 -- entered guilty pleas in 2010 and were sentenced to 262 and 230 months, respectively, and were assessed a $250,000 fine. The investigation also resulted in the seizure/forfeiture of 19 luxury vehicles, two ranches, two horse trailers, $318,000 and a home valued at more than half a million dollars. A $16 million judgment has also been ordered against key defendants.
A 30th defendant, Sacramento Perez, 52, was recently arrested in the Atlanta, Ga., area and was ordered transferred to Laredo to face charges. Perez is awaiting final pretrial conference in 2012. He is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.
The case was primarily investigated by the DEA and IRS-CI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mary Lou Castillo and Mary Ellen Smyth.