HOUSTON, TX – Joselito Flores Mercado, 49, and Jose Alberto DeLeon, 34, have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in connection with a seizure of more than 1,900 pounds of marijuana in the Houston area, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Javier Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Mercado was convicted by a jury on March 1, 2012, following three days of trial for conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute. After appearing as a witness for the United States in the trial of Mercado, Deleon was found guilty of aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute in a one-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller the following week.
At the sentencing hearing today, Mercado reasserted his claim as presented in his trial, claiming he had been coerced by threats against himself and his family into taking possession of the marijuana and asked the court to grant him a lower sentence because of these alleged threats. Rejecting Mercado’s claim, Judge Miller sentenced Mercado to 97 months on each count which will run concurrently.
In sentencing DeLeon, Judge Miller rejected his contention that as an illegal alien, he will receive additional punishment by being deported following his sentence. However, the court did consider the assistance Deleon provided in the prosecution of Mercado and sentenced his to 22 months on his conviction.
During the trial against Mercado, the jury heard testimony that on the morning of April 19, 2011, agents with the DEA were conducting surveillance on a business operated by Mercado in West Houston when they witnessed two crates being delivered to that location. Later that afternoon, agents followed first DeLeon and then Mercado as they left the business. The testimony indicated DeLeon admitted to seeing a large amount of marijuana in Mercado’s business and that Mercado stated he had received two crates earlier in the day, but he did not know what was in them. Testimony further revealed Mercado paid DeLeon $400 as a day laborer for his assistance in opening the crates and removing the marijuana from them. Returning with agents to his business, Mercado later admitted the crates had contained marijuana after agents recovered 91 separately wrapped bales of marijuana, weighing 1,915 pounds, from the business.
At trial, Mercado took the stand in his own defense and testified he acted under duress when he accepted delivery of the marijuana. However, under cross examination, Mercado admitted he never revealed the existence of these alleged threats to any law enforcement officers or agencies.
At DeLeons’s bench trial, the defendant did not contest the facts as presented by the United States to Judge Miller. Instead, DeLeon presented evidence in an effort to mitigate his conduct, having his wife testify as to how devoted DeLeon was to his family and to the dire financial situation in their home at the time of the offense.
Mercado and Deleon will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The case was investigated by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, DEA, Texas Department of Public Safety and Harris County Sheriff’s Office and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rick Hanes and Ted Imperato.