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Another Ordered to Prison in Large Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracy

MAY 02 (LAREDO, Texas) - A third defendant convicted in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and money laundering scheme 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. A federal jury convicted Baltazar Ibarra Cardona, 55, of Nuevo Laredo, Nov. 3, 2015, following three days of trial.

Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo ordered he serve a total of 120 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.

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. 

Cardona was one of several truck drivers used by the organization to transport marijuana from Laredo to Dallas. He was a commercial truck driver willing to transport drug loads for $15,000. Cardona would pick up trailers loaded with the marijuana left at a warehouse provided by co-defendant Rafael Ortega. On a weekend in October 2011, the organization loaded four large crates with marijuana and placed them onto a trailer at a local warehouse. On Oct. 10, 2011, Cardona drove a tractor to the warehouse and picked up the marijuana-loaded trailer to transport to Dallas, taking a longer route via Highway 83 to circumvent the IH-35 checkpoint in the hopes of evading law enforcement. However, a Zavala County deputy stopped him between Carrizo Springs and Uvalde with an expired driver’s license as well as expired insurance on the tractor. He also had a false bill of Lading showing that his cargo was destined to a hardware store in Abeline. A search of the tractor trailer revealed he was transporting 1,858 kilograms of marijuana. Evidence established that this had been Cardona’s third trip for the organization.

Ortega aka Tio, 57, of Laredo, was also convicted at trial and ordered to serve 120 months in federal prison. Erika Alavarez, Trejo-Nava’s niece, pleaded guilty for being a money courier and received 48 months in prison.

The remaining 17 defendants had previously pleaded guilty and are also awaiting sentencing. Erasmo Abdon 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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