Convicted Marijuana Trafficker Sentenced to Twenty Years
(HOUSTON, TX) – United States Attorney Michael Shelby announced today that Ramona Rodriguez, 36, of Penitas, Texas, will be serving a 20 year prison term for her role as a leader of a marijuana trafficking organization operating from the Rio Grande Valley through Houston to points north. The sentence was pronounced by United States District Judge David Hittner at a hearing held on Wednesday, March 2, 2005. Rodriguez was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to launder drug money following her plea of guilty to both counts on April 7, 2004. Rodriguez, the last of a total of fifteen defendants indicted in May 2000 for their roles in this organization, was also the last to be arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison term. Rodriguez, a fugitive for more than three years, was arrested on December 9, 2003, when she was identified and arrested by an off-duty police officer at a movie theater in Laredo, Texas.
Ramona Rodriguez and the other defendants charged in this case were principally members of the Ramona Rodriguez's family residing in the Houston and McAllen areas and included her half-brothers, Gabriel and Jose Rodriguez. Ramona along with her half-brothers acted as leaders or supervisors of the criminal enterprise responsible for transporting, storing and distributing thousands of pounds of marijuana. Until his arrest in 2000, Gabriel Rodriguez had been an evangelical minister in McAllen and the owner of El Bendecido (“The Blessed”) Auto Sales in Alamo, Texas.
The Rodriguez marijuana trafficking organization, which operated between 1992 until mid-2000, smuggled marijuana from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston and beyond to their out-of-state buyers. During the period of the conspiracy, law enforcement agencies made almost 40 seizures of marijuana totaling approximately 3000 pounds. Several of the seizures occurred at U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints at Sarita and Falfurrias, Texas. The organization used straw-purchasers to buy cars for hauling the drugs and employed multiple couriers to transport the drugs. Also, several stash houses were rented in the McAllen area and Houston for storing and packaging marijuana and currency.
At her sentencing, Rodriguez claimed she was merely a minor participant in the drug trafficking organization. The United States argued, and the Court agreed, that Rodriguez was actually a leader of the conspiracy involved in obtaining the marijuana from suppliers; recruiting and supervising multiple transporters; and arranging the sales of wholesale quantities of marijuana.
Ramona Rodriguez's conviction and that of all of the defendants charged in this case is the result of a multi-agency investigation unified under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The investigative agencies include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the South Texas Specialized Crimes & Narcotics Task Force of Kingsville, Texas, and the United States Attorney's Office of Houston. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Eric Reed and John Patrick Smith.