October 4, 2022

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Cartel traffickers sentenced for multi-kilogram drug conspiracy

14 min read

LAREDO, Texas – A total of 10 Mexican nationals and associates of Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion have been ordered to federal prison for their roles in a conspiracy involving the importation of crystal meth, cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana imposed an 80-month-term of imprisonment for Juan Jose Garcia Lerma, 45, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, while Jorge Luis Castellanos De La Mora, 37, Michoacan, Mexico, received 67 months. Not U.S. citizens, they are expected to face removal proceedings following their prison terms.

The other eight received their sentences last week. Roberto Ivan Rodriguez Ramirez, 27, and Manuel Enrique Ayala Rodriguez, 45, both of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, were each sentenced to 192 months. Giovani Mendez Hornelas, a non-U.S. citizen residing in Angier, North Carolina, was sentenced to 108 months on April 1. Daniel Morales Hinojosa, 52, Santos Salazar, 35, Victor Hinojosa, 36, Omar Hiracheta-Cruz, 38, and Armando Animas Hernandez, 33, were sentenced earlier in the week. Daniel Hinojosa and Salazar were each ordered to serve 262-month-terms of imprisonment, while Victor Hinojosa, Hiracheta-Cruz and Hernandez received 210, 192 and 120 months, respectively. All are also expected to face removal proceedings.

At the hearings, Judge Saldana noted the extensive conspiracy which relied on many  truck drivers to succeed. Saldana noted that each played a role that contributed to the smuggling of large amounts of drugs from the Michoacan area into the United States for distribution to cities throughout the United States. Whether truck drivers, stash operators or couriers co-conspirators were in some way responsible for these deadly drugs reaching distribution centers. Daldana noted the horrible effects that such drugs have had in certain regions and populations of the country. 

The investigation began in 2017 when authorities identified Juan Manuel Salazar Alvarez as the operator of the conspiracy. Alvarez directed a large-scale organization comprised of truck drivers, stash house operators and transportation coordinators responsible for smuggling fentanyl, heroin, meth and cocaine.

The drugs were concealed in fire extinguishers, wooden blocks, vehicle batteries and hydraulic jacks. The co-conspirators worked as truck drivers to transport the drugs from Michoacán and Jalisco to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and into Laredo. In Texas, the conspirators stashed the drugs in storage units, tractor trailers or other locations. Drivers then transported the narcotics to distribution centers across the United States including Houston; Dallas; Memphis, Tennessee; Kentucky; and North Carolina.

All have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Alvarez will be sentenced at a later date.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Operation Gelo Podre (Rotten Ice) with the assistance of Laredo Police Department, U.S. Marshals Service, Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, Interpol Mexico City and the Mexican National Guard.

OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

Deputy Criminal Chief for the South Texas Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Mary Lou Castillo is prosecuting the case.

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