News Release
September 17, 2008
Contact: Terri K. Wyatt
Special Agent/PIO
Number: 214-366-6900

22 Arrests in Texas Part of International Operation

SEP 17 -- (DALLAS) —  Twenty-two members of cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking cells associated with Mexico’s Gulf Cartel were arrested yesterday on charges outlined in two federal indictments that were also unsealed yesterday, announced Richard B. Roper, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Texas and James L. Capra, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Dallas Division.  Additionally, law enforcement officers executed several search warrants at various locations in North Texas which resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million in cash, approximately 300 kilograms of cocaine, approximately 400 pounds of  methamphetamine, also known as “ice” or “crystal meth,” approximately 20 weapons and various explosive devices.  

The arrests are part of “Project Reckoning,” a multi-agency law enforcement effort led by DEA, that targeted the Mexican drug trafficking cartel known as the Gulf Cartel, which is responsible for transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana from Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Mexico to the U.S., as well as the distribution of those narcotics within the U.S.  At a press conference held earlier today in Atlanta, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and DEA announced the nationwide results of “Project Reckoning,” a 15-month investigation that combined several enforcement actions involving individuals with close ties to the Gulf Cartel into one centrally coordinated effort.  At that press conference, officials stated that more than 175 individuals were arrested yesterday throughout the U.S. and  Italy on charges related to the Gulf Cartel in a coordinated enforcement action by hundreds of international, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.  According to DOJ, to date, “Project Reckoning” has resulted in the arrest of 507 individuals and the seizure of approximately $60.1 million in U.S. currency, 16,711 kilograms of cocaine, 1039 pounds of methamphetamine, 19 pounds of heroin, 51,258 pounds of marijuana, 176 vehicles and 167 weapons.

In the Northern District of Texas, as part of Project Reckoning, DEA led “Operation Dos Equis,” an investigation that focused on a Mexican cocaine distribution organization, and “Operation Vertigo,” an investigation into a methamphetamine distribution organization that operated throughout the U.S. 

In Operation Dos Equis, a federal grand jury returned an indictment earlier this month charging 21 defendants with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.  All are also charged with money laundering.  The following defendants were arrested this morning in Operation Dos Equis:

1.      Hector Omero Rodriguez, a/k/a “Guero,” a/k/a “Papalote,” 34, of Allen, Texas   

2.      Lazaro Fernando Rodriguez, 28, of Dallas       

3.      Mark Anthony Mcaleer, a/k/a “Chapulin,” 28, of Dallas          

4.      Sergio Diaz, 38, of Dallas             

5.      Ava Corinna Moreno, 18, of Dallas              

6.      Vincent Ramirez, a/k/a “Pterodactyl”           

7.      Vicente Arcenio Lira, a/k/a “Chente,” 27, of Dallas    

8.      Tarus Shaynard Murray, a/k/a “T,” 31, of Grand Prairie, Texas

9.      Gabriella Moreno, 19                   

10.     Vanessa Ramirez Padilla, 24                    

11.     Juan Manuel Martinez, 38, of Dallas            

12.     Rigoberto Mata, Jr., 43, of Laredo, Texas                      

Defendants Juan Manuel Hernandez, a/k/a  “Cholo,” 32; Frederick R. Kay, 47; and FNU LNU, a/k/a “Pistolero,” of Dallas are already in state custody on related charges.  Defendant Uriel Palacios, a/k/a “Youngster,” 22, was arrested on September 1, 2008, in Dallas on unrelated charges, and is presently in state custody.  Four defendants, including defendant Raul Reyes, 28, of Laredo, Texas, remain fugitives.

In Operation Vertigo, 11 defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.  Three defendants, Angel Hernandez, Ana Cornelio and Israel Vasquez, are also each charged with one count of money laundering and named in the forfeiture allegation which would require them, upon conviction, to forfeit residences located at 5318 Duncanville Road, in Duncanville, Texas; 210 North Venice, in Dallas; 8332 High Brush, in Dallas; and 101 Charles Street, in DeSoto, Texas.  The defendants arrested yesterday in Operation Vertigo are:

1.      Angel Hernandez, 34, of Desoto, Texas

2.      Ana Cornelio, 40, of Duncanville, Texas

3.      Israel Vasquez, 38, of Cedar Hill, Texas

4.      Efrain Vasquez, 29, of Dallas, Texas

5.      Juan Chavez, 41, of Duncanville, Texas

6.      Irving Cornelio Reynoso, 19, of Duncanville, Texas

7.      Grady Smith, 36, of Dallas, Texas

8.      Darren Price, 48, of Cedar Hill, Texas

9.      Becky Panya, 30, of Dallas, Texas

10.     Robert Woods, 43, of Dallas, Texas             

Defendant Jose Juan Hernandez, age 38, of Desoto, Texas, is presently in custody in California.

U.S. Attorney Roper said, “Operation Dos Equis and Operation Vertigo are an unprecedented success in North Texas — resulting in the largest combined seizure ever of money and drugs at one time.  In these operations, law enforcement united to strategically attack the distribution systems of a dangerous international drug trafficking cartel, and made a difference, ridding our streets of dangerous narcotics and related crimes and standing up to the Mexican drug cartels.”

“The combined national drug enforcement activities, during the course of this operation, have significantly disrupted the Gulf Cartel’s transportation and distribution networks,” said James L. Capra, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Dallas Division.  “The cooperation among our domestic law enforcement agencies as well as our international partners has been instrumental toward the successful outcome of this investigation.”

“Twenty-three investigators from the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, including the case agent, assisted in yesterday’s successful joint operation with DEA’s Drug Task Force and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Texas,” said Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney.  “Anytime law enforcement agencies join forces to combat criminal activity the results are guaranteed to be positive, and having one of our investigators assigned to the Drug Task Force further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to eradicate the drug problem in our community.”

Deputy Chief Julian Bernal, of the Dallas Police Department Narcotics Division said, “The Gulf Cartel and other drug trafficking organizations continue to spread their poison and violence deeper into our communities.  Only through multi-agency law enforcement efforts such as this can we strike back at the assault on our communities nationwide.”

Patricia Kneblick, Interim Chief of Police for the Fort Worth Police Department said, “The Fort Worth Police Department is very proud of our participation with the Drug Enforcement Administration and places great value on all of our federal partnerships.  This operation would not have been possible without effective inter-agency cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement entities.  A significant dent has been made in organized drug crime with the seizure of over 420 kilograms of cocaine, 400 pounds of amphetamine known as ‘ice,’ several weapons including explosives and $8 million in U.S. currency.  This is a big win for the citizens of this great state and for the drug enforcement officers who put countless hours of effort into putting these menacing criminals behind bars where they belong.” 

“IRS-Criminal Investigation specializes in following the money in illegal narcotic operations, enhancing the overall law enforcement effort resulting in increased criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures,” said Michael P. Lahey, Special Agent in Charge of IRS-CI in Dallas.

An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.  However, if convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million. 

DEA, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation, FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, North Texas HIDTA, Dallas Police Department, Fort Worth Police Department, Arlington Police Department, Grand Prairie Police Department, Farmers Branch Police Department, Coppell Police Department, Allen Police Department, Richardson Police Department, Waxahachie Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s Office participated in this investigation.  Other law enforcement assisting with the arrests included the U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Corinth Police Department, The Colony Police Department, Grapevine Police Department, Cedar Hill Police Department, Duncanville Police Department and Ellis County Sheriff’s Office.