News Release
Date: May 17, 2012
Contact: DEA PIO Diana Apodaca
Phone: 915-832-6074

Barrio Azteca Members Sentenced To Life in Federal Prison

May 17 (Midland, TX) - DEA Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit and United States Attorney Robert Pitman, announced that in Midland this morning, Barrio Azteca members 33-year-old Santos Almanza and 32-year-old Miguel Nieto were sentenced to life and 30 years in federal prison, respectively, on federal drug and racketeering charges.

On February 22, 2012, a federal jury convicted Almanza and Nieto of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine as well as marijuana; one count of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute; and, one count of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute. Today, United States District Judge Robert Junell sentenced Almanza to life imprisonment on the drug charge, plus 30 years imprisonment on each the RICO charges; Nieto, concurrent 30-year imprisonment terms on each count.

Co-defendants Venessa Rico Flores, Federico Dunn, San Juan Barboza-Rodriguez, Stephen Corona, Juan Cortez and Benito Gonzalez have already been convicted and sentenced to federal prison in this case. Prison terms range from 33 months to 77 months. Co-defendants Christopher Gilbertson, Carlos Hernandez, Ramon Morales and Marcus Calderon are scheduled to be sentenced over the next two weeks.

“These sentences send a strong message to gang members who engage in drug trafficking and related acts of violence and intimidation. Their illegal activities will not be tolerated, and we will continue to leverage all available resources to hold accountable those who threaten the safety of our communities,” stated Joseph M. Arabit, Special Agent in Charge of DEA-El Paso Division.

Testimony during their trial in February 2012 revealed that since January 2006, the defendants have conspired to carry out the mission of the BA criminal organization through a pattern of smuggling and distributing cocaine and marijuana, robbery, extortion, as well as violence and intimidation in and around the Midland-Odessa area. Testimony also revealed that Morales and Almanza were leaders of the Midland-Odessa BA enterprise who directed other members in carrying out the mission of the organization. Jurors also heard testimony that Almanza unlawfully and knowingly attempted to murder a Midland resident on or about October 20, 2009 and that defendants Almanza, Flores, Nieto and Hernandez each agreed to commit at least two acts of racketeering activity while conducting the affairs of the criminal organization. In addition to drug distribution, the racketeering activity included a series of home invasion robberies in the Midland area.

This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration together with the Midland Police Department and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorneys John Klassen and Mark Roomberg prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.

The DEA El Paso Division encourages parents, and their children to visit the following interactive websites at, and