Federal Jury Returns Guilty Verdict in Drug Trafficking Case
MAR 10 -- (McALLEN, Texas) - After approximately two hours of deliberation, a federal jury in McAllen found Jose-Leon Chavaria, a 37-year-old Mexican national from Reynosa, guilty of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, Special Agent in Charge Zoran B. Yankovich and United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today.
The verdict was returned this afternoon following a two-day trial over which U.S. District Judge Randy Crane presided. During trial, the United States presented evidence that Leon and several co-conspirators transported approximately 118 kilograms of marijuana across the Rio Grande and into the United States during the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 2009.
According to testimony at trial, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helicopter pilot, conducting surveillance two miles north of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo, Texas, observed Leon and approximately six others walking in a group and carrying backpacks. Suspecting the group was involved in smuggling illegal narcotics, the pilot dispatched ground agents to the area to conduct further investigation. When the CBP agents arrived, they observed eight burlap sacks containing the marijuana and Leon was discovered hiding in the brush approximately 10 yards away. Leon attempted to flee from the agents and actively resisted arrest.
After the guilty verdicts were returned, Judge Crane scheduled Leon’s sentencing for May 17, 2010, at 2:00 p.m, at which time he will face no less than five and up to 40 years imprisonment on each count of conviction. Leon will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing.
The investigation leading to the charges was conducted by CBP and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory S. Saikin and Michelle Allen-McCoy are prosecuting the case.