Third Drug Conviction Costs South Texas Man Life in Prison
SEP 16 -- (LAREDO, TX) United States Attorney Michael Shelby announced today that Rickey Gonzalez, 42, of Robstown, Texas, will spend the rest of his life in federal prison for drug trafficking. Indicted on April 6, 2004, for possession with intent to distribute 1,011 kilograms of marijuana, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to the charge on May 28, 2004. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison imposed the mandatory life sentence after finding that Gonzalez had at least two prior conviction for drug trafficking offenses. Federal law permits the United States to seek a mandatory life sentence as punishment in any case in which a defendant has two or more prior federal or state felony drug convictions. Gonzalez had been convicted in the 1990's in Corpus Christ, Texas, with drug trafficking offenses, including a previous federal conviction for possession with intent to distribute 39 kilograms of marijuana, and a state conviction for possession with intent to distribute in excess of 50 pounds of marijuana. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case stems from a seizure of 1,011 kilograms of marijuana at the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint near Freer, Texas, in the early morning hours of March 13, 2004. On that date, Gonzalez was the sole of occupant of a tractor-trailer that approached the Hwy. 59 checkpoint around 2:30 in the morning. During the course of the immigration inspection at the checkpoint, a U.S. Border Patrol service canine alerted to the presence of contraband within the dump-truck trailer Gonzalez was towing. Further search of the trailer resulted in the discovery of 95 bundles of marijuana weighing in excess of 2,200 pounds concealed under the load of dirt in the trailer.
This case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration and prosecuted by Assistant U. S. Attorney Matthew Rinka.