December 04, 2014
Contact: Wendell Campbell
Phone Number: (713) 693-3000
Additional Members Of South Laredo Trafficking Group Plead Guilty
LAREDO, Texas - Nine more members of a cocaine, crack and marijuana distribution group have entered guilty pleas to federal conspiracy charges, announced Drug Enforcement (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
On July 8, 2014, a federal grand jury returned an superseding indictment against 32 defendants in Laredo alleging their responsibility for locally distributing cocaine, crack and marijuana; maintaining drug premises; and utilizing minors to distribute narcotics.
At hearings that finished late today, nine of those people had entered guilty pleas. Eight are from Laredo and pleaded to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances - Juan Jose Melendez aka Pelon, 32, Aurora Melendez-Lozano aka Gori, 54, Fernando Hinojosa aka Casper or Playboy, 37, Arturo Garcia, 21, Julio Eduardo Almazan Jr., 22, Mario Gutierrez aka Chito, 34, Pedro Omar Garza-Cadena, 32, and Roberto Lopez, 39. Lopez also pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, while Gutierrez also pleaded to money laundering. A ninth defendant - Oscar Sanchez-Avila, 24, of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico - pleaded guilty to money laundering. To date, a total of 19 defendants have been convicted by plea of guilty.
All but Sanchez-Avila, Lopez and Gutierrez face a minimum of five and up to 40 years of imprisonment as well as a $5 million fine. Sanchez-Avila faces a sentence of up to 20 years and a possible $500,000 fine. Lopez and Gutierrez face an enhanced penalty of 10 years and up to life as well as a $10 million fine for the drug convictions with an additional possibility of up to 20 years for Gutierrez for the money laundering conviction.
Sentencing will be set at a later date.
Agents and officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety participated in this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno is prosecuting the case.