Mexican National Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Drug Smuggling Operation
EL PASO – On February 23, a Mexican national was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his role in a large marijuana conspiracy.
According to court documents, Victor Gerardo Villegas, aka Victor Gerardo Villegas-Villalva, Gera, 34, of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, was a member of the Gente Nueva de Durango Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) from 2013 until his arrest in early June 2019. The DTO controls human and drug smuggling through the Valle de Juarez, which is located south of the Lower Valley of El Paso County, Texas.
The DTO was responsible for smuggling large quantities of marijuana using undocumented non-citizens carrying makeshift backpacks with about 50 pounds of marijuana per pack. The DTO transported the marijuana from El Paso to destination cities, such as Oklahoma City. As smuggling coordinator for the DTO, Villegas managed operations through the Valle de Juarez, including distributing marijuana and transporting drug proceeds back to Ciudad Juarez. As part of the conspiracy, Villegas directed DTO members in the El Paso area to rent at least two residences to temporarily store marijuana for further distribution.
On September 10, 2021, a jury found Villegas guilty of one count of conspiracy to possess over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Other members of the DTO include Ernesto Daniel Rubio-Cervantes, 29, of Fabens; Jesus Dominguez, 33, of Tornillo; Marcos Andrade-Luna, 54, of Sonora, Mexico; Rudy Cruz Fierro, 29, of Fabens; Santiago De Leon-Zavala, 25, of Tornillo; and Isac Gamez-Ruiz, 47, of Sonora, Mexico.
“I am grateful for the tireless efforts of our law enforcement partners as we work together to pursue not only individual drug traffickers, but also large drug trafficking organizations and their leadership,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.
“Drug trafficking organizations don’t just traffic in drugs, as this case highlights,” said Greg Millard, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), El Paso Division. “The DEA, joining forces with our federal partners, will continue to investigate and pursue those who threaten our communities with illegal activity, especially when they prey on others to commit their illegal acts.”
“The FBI would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Homeland Security Investigations for their partnership and dedication,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey R. Downey. “As a result of our collective efforts, members of this criminal organization will no longer plague our communities in West Texas and across the nation with their brazen acts of violence, drug trafficking, and human smuggling.”
“This individual played a key role in a transnational criminal organization that posed a public safety threat to our border community by using our neighborhoods as locations for criminal activity,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge, El Paso Division, Frank Burrola. “This sentence is the culmination of HSI’s dedication and commitment to work jointly with our law enforcement partners to rid our streets of criminals who would trash our communities for their own greed.”
Rubio-Cervantes pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. On October 18, 2017, Rubio-Cervantes was sentenced to 72 months in prison.
Dominguez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. On November 30, 2017, Dominguez was sentenced to 63 months in prison.
Andrade-Luna pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. On January 5, 2018, Andrade-Luna was sentenced to 88 months in prison.
Fierro pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. On February 22, 2018, Fierro was sentenced to 102 months in prison.
De Leon-Zavala pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. On June 25, 2019, De Leon-Zavala was sentenced to 72 months in prison.
Gamez-Ruiz pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. On November 22, 2019, Gamez-Ruiz was sentenced to 51 months in prison.
This case was investigated by the El Paso Divisions of DEA, FBI and HSI as a joint investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andres Ortega and John Johnston prosecuted the case.
This effort is part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.