SEP 13 (BROWNSVILLE, Texas)– A 19-count indictment has been partially unsealed following the arrest of four people by federal and state law enforcement, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Julio Cesar Cardenas, 39, Juan Torres aka Chaparro, 34, and Juan Gonzalez aka Popo, 38, all from Brownsville, Texas, as well as Emmanuel Leal Mancha, 35, a Mexican citizen, were arrested today on allegations of a conspiracy involving drug trafficking and money remitting.
The defendants are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Morgan tomorrow, at which time they are expected to be held in custody pending further criminal proceedings. A fifth defendant, Byron Green, 32, is currently in federal custody on unrelated charges and is expected to appear in court to face these charges in the near future.
The 19-count indictment also seeks a money judgment in the amount of $1 million from several defendants as well as the forfeiture of certain property alleged to have been used in the commission of drug trafficking, including real property located on Los Angeles Court in Brownsville.
All are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more 100 kilograms of marijuana from approximately January 2009 until May 2012. All but Leal are also charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine during the same timeframe. Cardenas, Torres, Leal and Green are further alleged to have conducted unlicensed money remitting, while Torres is also charged with one count of making a false statement on a loan application. The remaining 15 counts of the indictment involve allegations of the possession with the intent to distribute specific amounts of either marijuana or cocaine at varying times throughout the alleged conspiracy.
All but Leal face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to life in prison as well as a fine of up to $10 million for the cocaine conspiracy charge, upon conviction. All five also face a mandatory minimum of five and up to 40 years and a fine of up to $5 million for the marijuana conspiracy. A conviction for unlicensed money remitting carries as possible punishment a maximum of five years in imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Torres is further facing an additional 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the possible false statement conviction. In regard to the possession charges, Cardenas faces another 10 years and up to life on each of two possible convictions for possessing more than five kilograms of cocaine. The remaining three face the same punishment for one possible count of conviction of the same charge. Cardenas and Torres are facing five charges of possessing more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, while Gonzalez and Green are charged with two counts of that charge. Upon conviction, they face a minimum of five and up to 40 years in prison for each count. Possessing with intent to distribute in excess of 50 kilograms of marijuana carries up to a maximum 20-year prison sentence, for which Cardenas, Torres and Leal face four, five and three charges, respectively. Cardenas and Torres also face up to five years in prison for each of two counts of possessing less than 50 kilograms of marijuana, while Gonzalez faces the same punishment for one count as charged.
This case is part of an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, dubbed Operation “Hips Don’t Lie,” involving agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, Cameron County Sheriff’s Office and the Brownsville and Harlingen Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Jody L. Young and Angel Castro are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.