Indictment Targeting Alleged Members of a Gun and Drug Trafficking Organization Unsealed
OCT 26 -- (HOUSTON) – An 11-month joint federal and state agency investigation has culminated in the indictment of 11 people on firearms and drug charges effectively dismantling a suspected drug and firearms trafficking ring in the Houston area, United States Attorney Tim Johnson, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Zoran B. Yankovich and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Dewey Webb announced today.
The 20-count superseding indictment returned under seal on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009, was unsealed today in open court. Cristhian Townsend, 31, Martin Garcia, 39, Marlon Harrell, 34, Gerardo Villegas, 36, William Joseph Stone Jr., 40, Marilyn Mann, 45, William Wayne Marrero II, 23, and Austin Frank Buffington, 25, all of Houston, were arrested by agents and officers of the DEA, ATF, Houston Police Department (HPD), Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and the United States Marshals Service (USMS) on Friday, Oct. 23, 2009, and made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Stephen Wm. Smith today. Aaron Dale Robinson, 34, was arrested in Las Vegas and is awaiting extradition back to Texas. Two other defendants named in the superseding indictment, Suzanne Voelker, 25, and Ricardo Beltran, 24, were previously arrested and are in custody on these or related charges.
“This cooperative effort by local and federal law enforcement agencies demonstrates the government’s resolve in halting the trafficking of firearms from the United States to narco-terrorists,” Johnson said.
The 20-count Houston indictment accuses Robinson, Stone, Buffington and Marrero of conspiring with one another and others unknown to acquire numerous firearms, including the FN-Herstal, Model Five-Seven, 5.7 x 28 mm caliber pistol - known as the “Matapolicias” among Mexican drug traffickers for its reputed ability to penetrate police body armor, for the purpose of trafficking those firearms to “Los Zetas” - the Gulf Cartel Mexican drug trafficking organization - and to others. Each is also charged in additional counts with unlawfully making false statements to federal firearms licensees to acquire the firearms involved in the conspiracy. Townsend, Harrell, Villegas and Mann are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. Harrell and Mann are charged in separate counts with the substantive offenses of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Villegas is charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.
“The investigation leading to today’s arrests is part of the DEA’s continuing effort to target and dismantle drug and gun trafficking organizations which can have a direct impact on the Houston metro area by removing from our streets the lethal combination of guns and drugs,” said Yankovich.
“Guns go hand in hand with drug trafficking,” Webb said. “ATF will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to disarm traffickers.”
The DEA, ATF, USMS, HPD and HCSO joint investigation began in December 2008 following the execution of a federal arrest warrant for Houston-resident Suzanna Voelker issued by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana (MDLA). Deputy U.S. Marshals located Voelker in a house on Magnolia Crest Place in Houston. During the course of the arrest, they saw in plain view numerous loaded semi-automatic rifles strategically positioned around the house, kilogram quantities of cocaine and cocaine packaging and cutting supplies, as well as equipment to monitor HCSO radio communications. USMS notified DEA and ATF of their observations.
DEA, ATF, HPD and HCSO joined the investigation which began with the execution of a federal warrant at the Magnolia Crest Place residence. The search resulted in the seizure of 26.5 kilograms of cocaine valued at more than $500,000, 848 grams of crack cocaine, 1500 pills of 3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy), 1000 hydrocodone pills and five pounds of marijuana. Agents also recovered thousands of rounds of ammunition and numerous loaded firearms including semi-automatic rifles; FN Herstal, Model Five-Seven, 5.7 x 28 mm pistols; FN Herstal, Model FS2000, 5.56 mm carbines; 22LR caliber pistols; UZI Model A, 9mm rifles; 9mm sub-machine guns including one with a silencer; a Coharie, Model CA89, 9mm assault weapon; a Smith and Wesson, Model 38-2 Ladysmith, .38 special revolver; a green metallic ammunition box containing an aggregate total of 1,303 rounds of ammunition of various calibers; and 3,132 assorted rounds of ammunition of various calibers. A number of the above firearms had been stored in suitcases and appeared to have been prepared to be secreted in vehicles for shipment. Agents also recovered 10 - 37mm red flares, 11 - 37mm smoke signal rounds, one Blackhawk ballistic vest, Balaklava (black tactical mask/hood), one Night Owl Optics, night-vision goggles and approximately $85,186 in U.S. currency.
The joint investigation continued marshalling the extensive investigative resources of the Houston Division of the DEA and the Houston Field Division of the ATF to trace the firearms back to their point of sale and purchaser and to further the long-term drug trafficking investigation leading to the indictment.
Friday’s enforcement action netted not only the arrest of the defendants charged in the Houston indictment but the arrest of three others defendants, Jose Angel Ramirez, 31, Roberto Trujillo, 46, and Mario Arteaga, 40, charged with drug trafficking offenses in the MDLA as well as the discovery and seizure of more than 800 marijuana plants, more than 1100 pounds of cultivated marijuana and more than 20 firearms.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mark White.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
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