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Money Courier Sentenced for Money Laundering

APR 29 (LAREDO, Texas) - The second of 20 defendants convicted in a marijuana trafficking and money laundering conspiracy has been ordered to prison, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Erika Alvarez, 39, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, previously pleaded guilty for her role in the money laundering.

Today, U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen ordered she serve a term of 48 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. The court further issued a final order of forfeiture in the amount of $171,240.

Erasmo Trejo-Nava was the head of a drug trafficking organization that received marijuana loads from Mexico and arranged to transport the marijuana to the Dallas area. The organization used various stash houses and business fronts in the Laredo area to receive and prepare the marijuana for transportation via personal vehicles to a local warehouse where it was unloaded and reloaded onto tractor trailers. 

Alvarez was identified as Trejo-Nava’s niece. Her role was that of a money courier who travelled periodically to the Dallas area to pick up drug proceeds and transport them in bulk to Laredo. She then delivered the drug proceeds to Trejo Nava who then had the proceeds transported to Mexico.

Between Oct. 6-7, 2011, Trejo-Nava arranged for the transportation of $48,000 in drug proceeds from the Dallas area to Nuevo Laredo. Alvarez drove to the Dallas area in a personal vehicle and picked up the currency from a co-conspirator. She then transported the drug proceeds to Laredo and delivered the bulk cash to Trejo-Nava who arranged for another co-conspirator to transport it to Mexico. On May 28, 2012, Trejo-Nava again sent Alvarez to Dallas for the purpose of receiving drug money. The next day, she received $73,240 in drug proceeds from a Dallas area co-conspirator for transportation to Laredo. En route south, law enforcement performed a traffic stop of Alvarez and recovered four bundles of bulk cash drug proceeds totaling $73,240. She was also stopped on a third trip, during which time she was found to be in possession of several bundles of money hidden in her pants totaling $50,000 in drug proceeds. 

A total of 20 defendants have been convicted for their respective roles in the overall conspiracy. A federal jury convicted Rafael Ortega aka Tio, 57, of Laredo, and Baltazar Ibarra Cardona, 55, of Nuevo Laredo in the case. Ortega was ordered to serve 120 months in federal prison, while Cardona is awaiting sentencing.

The remaining 17 defendants had previously pleaded guilty and are also awaiting sentencing. Erasmo Trejo Nava, 44, Jose Angel Trejo, 43, Ovidio Rodriguez, 42, Victor Hugo Trejo Nava, 42, Francisco Colin, 42, and Salvador Saldaña-Medrano, 37, all of Laredo; Jaime Enrique Montalvo-Ruiz, 45, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; and Leocadio Ruiz, 48, of Dallas, entered pleas of guilty to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to launder drug proceeds. Five others - Juan Manuel Vargas Aguilar, 46, Mario Albert Rodriguez, 30, and Ricardo Ramirez, 34, all of Laredo; Arturo Lozano, 48, of Dallas; and Joshua Sanchez, 33, of Nuevo Laredo – pleaded guilty to the conspiracy. Gerardo Moreno Recio, 49, of Nuevo Laredo, was convicted of two separate counts of possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, while Laura Heredia Garcia, 51, of Nuevo Laredo; and Raquel Margarita Ramos Jimenez, 45, and Leslie Bernice Trejo, 23, both of Laredo, entered pleas of guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder drug proceeds.

The charges were the result of a long term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Investigation dubbed Operation Trena Sin Trono spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force and IRS - Criminal Investigation with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations, Laredo Police Department, and the Zavala County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Lou Castillo is prosecuting the case. 

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