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18 Operation Trena Sin Trono Defendants Plead Guilty

SEP 24 (LAREDO, Texas) - A total of 18 defendants have entered guilty pleas in recent weeks to various charges to include conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to launder drug proceeds, announced Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. The members of this drug and money laundering organization were part of the conspiracy that occurred from on or about June 2011 through June 2013.

The pleas are the culmination of a long term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Investigation dubbed Operation Trena Sin Trono spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS-Criminal Investigation with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, Laredo Police Department and the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office.

Erasmo Abdon Trejo-Nava was the head of a transportation cell that operated out of Laredo and was one of the primary transporters of marijuana shipments for the Zetas Cartel in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The Trejo-Nava drug trafficking organization utilized commercial trucks and trailers to transport multi-thousand pound quantities of marijuana from Laredo to the Dallas area. The investigation revealed that beginning from on or about June 10, 2011, and continuing through June 4, 2013, Trejo-Nava conspired with others to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspired to launder money. 

Trejo-Nava transported loads of marijuana for himself, Jaime Montalvo-Ruiz and Ovidio Rodriguez. Joshua Sanchez and Ricardo Ramirez were identified as subjects who were tasked with receiving marijuana loads from Trejo-Nava for Montalvo-Ruiz. Salvador Saldaña Medrano was identified as a co-conspirator who assisted Montalvo-Ruiz in coordinating the delivery of marijuana to Trejo-Nava for transportation to the Dallas area and  also coordinated the receipt of drug proceeds from Trejo-Nava on behalf of Montalvo-Ruiz.

The organization used various stash houses and business fronts in the Laredo area to receive and prepare the drugs for transportation via personal vehicles to a local warehouse. Gerardo Moreno Recio was identified as assisting at stash houses used by the organization. Juan Manuel Vargas-Aguilar wrapped and prepared marijuana at stash houses and marked the bundles for identification once they arrived in the Dallas area. Victor Hugo Trejo was identified as assisting in the transportation of the marijuana from the stash houses to a local warehouse.

Francisco Colin supplied tractor trailers and was also identified as providing willing truck drivers to transport marijuana loads. Mario Alberto Rodriguez and Jose Angel Trejo were identified as assisting with loading of marijuana into crates at a warehouse and traveling to Dallas to assist in receiving the marijuana. Angel Trejo was also identified as recruiting a driver to transport a load of marijuana for the organization. Arturo Alfonso Lozano and Leocadio Ruiz received the marijuana loads in Dallas on behalf of Trejo-Nava, Montalvo-Ruiz and Ovidio Rodriguez and were responsible for sorting and distributing the marijuana in Dallas and collecting the proceeds.

The investigation  also revealed that the Trejo-Nava organization frequently transported drug proceeds from the Dallas area to Laredo and then to Mexico. The marijuana loads were fronted to distributors in the Dallas area to include Lozano and Ruiz. After the sale and distribution of the drugs, they received payment through co-conspirators in Dallas who collected, stored and prepared the drug proceeds for transportation via personal vehicle or tractor trailer to Laredo and  then to into the Republic of  Mexico. Erika Alvarez was identified as a courier of drug proceeds who traveled to Dallas to transport drug proceeds back to Laredo. Laura Heredia Garcia was also identified as a courier for drug proceeds who was tasked with transporting the drug proceeds received in Laredo to the Republic of Mexico via her own personal vehicle.

As part of the money laundering scheme, Trejo-Nava, Raquel Margarita Ramos Jimenez and Leslie Bernice Trejo knowingly and intentionally conducted financial transactions designed to conceal and disguise the nature, ownership, control and source of the proceeds and to avoid a transaction reporting requirement. They knew the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of drug trafficking. The proceeds from the sale of marijuana  were also used to acquire real estate and improve real estate and services.

Erasmo Trejo-Nava, Angel Trejo, 42, Ovidio Rodriguez, 41, Hugo Trejo, 41, Colin, 41, Saldaña-Medrano, 36, all of  Laredo, entered pleas of guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to launder drug proceeds as did Montalvo-Ruiz, 44, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and Ruiz, 47, of Dallas.

Vargas-Aguilar, 45, Rodriguez, 29, and Ricardo Ramirez, 33, all of Laredo; Lozano, 47, of Dallas; and Sanchez, 32, of Nuevo Laredo, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, while Recio, 48, of Nuevo Laredo, entered pleas of guilty to two separate counts of possession with intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana.

Garcia, 50, of Nuevo Laredo, and Alvarez, 38, and Jimenez, 44, and Trejo, 22, both of Laredo, pleaded to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Lou Castillo is prosecuting the case.

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