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.
- Military Base Realignments and Closures: DOD Is Taking Steps to Mitigate Challenges but Is Not Fully Reporting Some Additional Costs
August 25, 2021The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round is the fifth such round undertaken by DOD since 1988 and is the biggest, most complex, and costliest BRAC round ever. With this BRAC round, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to execute hundreds of BRAC actions affecting over 800 defense locations, relocate over 123,000 personnel, and spend over $35 billion–an unprecedented amount, given that DOD has spent nearly $26 billion to implement the four previous BRAC rounds combined when all relevant BRAC actions have been completed. As with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is required to implement the BRAC Commission’s 2005 recommendations within 6 years of their approval by the President and transmittal to Congress. Unlike with prior BRAC rounds, DOD is implementing the BRAC 2005 round during a time of conflict and significant increases to the defense budget to support ongoing contingency operations. Compounding this challenge, DOD is also implementing other extensive worldwide transformation initiatives such as the permanent relocation of about 70,000 military personnel to the United States from overseas; transformation of the Army’s force structure from an organization based on divisions to more rapidly deployable, combat brigade-based units; an increase in the active-duty end strength of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 members; and the drawdown of combat forces from Iraq while simultaneously increasing the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. All of these initiatives are exerting an unusually high demand on DOD’s domestic facility infrastructure to accommodate new forces and existing forces being deployed or redeployed. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) at the outset of BRAC 2005 indicated its intent to reshape DOD’s installations and realign DOD forces to meet defense needs for the next 20 years. Moreover, both DOD and the BRAC Commission reported that their primary consideration in making recommendations for the BRAC 2005 round was military value. As such, as opposed to simply closing bases, many of the BRAC 2005 recommendations involve complex realignments, such as designating where military forces returning to the United States from overseas bases would be located; establishing joint military medical centers; creating joint bases; and reconfiguring the defense supply, storage, and distribution network. The BRAC statute requires DOD to complete all BRAC 2005 closures and realignments by September 15, 2011. As we reported in January 2009, DOD expects almost half of the 800 defense locations implementing BRAC recommendations to complete their actions in 2011, with 230 of these 400 locations anticipating completion within the last 2 weeks before the statutory deadline. At the time of this report, DOD had only 14 months remaining until the The House Armed Services Committee report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed the Comptroller General to monitor the implementation of recommendations for the 2005 round of closures and realignments of military installations made pursuant to section 2914 of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990. We prepared this report, our fourth, in response to the mandate, to assess (1) the challenges, if any, DOD faces in implementing BRAC recommendations and (2) DOD’s efforts to mitigate any challenges and the extent to which any costs related to those mitigation efforts are being reported as BRAC implementation costs.DOD is implementing 182 BRAC recommendations for this BRAC round, but several logistical, human capital, and other implementation challenges remain. First, many locations are scheduled to complete the construction, relocation, personnel, and other actions needed to implement the recommendations within months of–and, in some cases, on–the deadline leaving little or no margin for slippage to finish constructing buildings and to move or hire the needed personnel. As of March 2010, DOD had 57 construction projects scheduled to be completed within 3 months of the statutory deadline, representing about 30 recommendations. Second, some DOD locations that involve the most costly and complex recommendations have encountered delays in awarding some construction contracts as well as experienced additional delays in the expected completion of construction. Third, DOD must synchronize the relocation of approximately 123,000 personnel with the availability of about $25 billion in new construction or renovation of facilities. Fourth, delays in interdependent recommendations are likely to have a cascading effect on the timely completion of related recommendations. These challenges have continued since our last report on BRAC implementation challenges, especially contracting and construction delays, which have further squeezed an already tight time line. The potential loss of intellectual capital is complicated by various community effects of BRAC implementation growth, such as transportation, housing, schooling, and availability of medical care. DOD is mitigating some BRAC implementation challenges, which is adding to implementation costs; however, DOD is not reporting all of these additional costs. To enhance its role in managing logistical challenges that could affect DOD’s ability to achieve BRAC implementation by the statutory deadline, the military services are working with their leadership to develop solutions. Further, the military services and defense agencies are providing periodic briefings for BRAC recommendations exceeding $100 million in implementation costs, or that have significant concerns such as cost overruns or construction delays to the OSD Basing Directorate. For other BRAC recommendations, DOD is still weighing options, such as moving temporarily into different buildings while construction and renovations are completed, referred to as swing space, or accelerating the pace of construction to complete permanent facilities by the deadline, potentially incurring additional expenses. The DOD Financial Management Regulation requires the services and defense agencies to accurately capture BRAC-related costs in the annual BRAC budget justification materials submitted to Congress. Since DOD’s recent fiscal year 2011 BRAC budget request–which was the final annual request for funds for the BRAC account before the statutory deadline for completion of closures and realignments–has already been submitted to Congress, such additional costs in our view may have to be funded from outside the BRAC account. However, we found that DOD’s reported costs funded outside the BRAC account are not complete because the Army has not reported to Congress some of these costs as BRAC costs. Thus, OSD officials do not have full visibility over the extent of these costs funded from outside the BRAC account, given that the services prepare their own BRAC budget justification material. Until the Secretary of Defense ensures that all BRAC-related costs are captured and reported to Congress, neither congressional decision makers nor those within OSD who are charged with overseeing BRAC implementation will have a complete picture of the cost of implementing the 2005 BRAC round.
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- Drinking Water: EPA Could Use Available Data to Better Identify Neighborhoods at Risk of Lead Exposure
December 18, 2020GAO’s statistical analysis indicates that areas with older housing and vulnerable populations (e.g., families in poverty) have higher concentrations of lead service lines in the selected cities GAO examined. By using geospatial lead service line data from the selected water systems and geospatial data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), GAO identified characteristics of neighborhoods with higher concentrations of lead service lines. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidance for water systems on how to identify the location of sites at high-risk of having lead service lines has not been updated since 1991 and many water systems face challenges identifying areas at risk of having lead service lines. By developing guidance for water systems that outlines methods for identifying high-risk locations using publicly available data, EPA could better ensure that public water systems test water samples from locations at greater risk of having lead service lines and identify areas with vulnerable populations to focus lead service line replacement efforts. (See figure for common sources of lead in home drinking water.) Common Sources of Lead in Drinking Water within Homes and Residences EPA has taken some actions to address the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act requirement, which include developing a strategic plan regarding lead in public water systems. However, EPA’s published plan did not satisfy the statutory requirement that the agency’s strategic plan address targeted outreach, education, technical assistance, and risk communication undertaken by EPA, states, and public water systems. For example, the plan does not discuss public education, technical assistance or risk communication. Instead, EPA’s plan focused solely on how to notify households when EPA learns of certain exceedances of lead in their drinking water. Moreover, EPA’s plan is not consistent with leading practices for strategic planning. For example, EPA’s plan does not set a mission statement or define long-term goals. Developing a strategic plan that meets the statutory requirement and fully reflects leading practices for strategic planning would give EPA greater assurance that it has effectively planned for how it will communicate the risks of lead in drinking water to the public. Lead in drinking water comes primarily from corrosion of service lines connecting the water main to a house or building, pipes inside a building, or plumbing fixtures. As GAO reported in September 2018, the total number of lead service lines in drinking water systems is unknown, and less than 20 of the 100 largest water systems have such data publicly available. GAO was asked to examine the actions EPA and water systems are taking to educate the public on the risks of lead in drinking water. This report examines, among other things: (1) the extent to which neighborhood data on cities served by lead service lines can be used to focus lead reduction efforts; and (2) actions EPA has taken to address WIIN Act requirements, and EPA’s risk communication documents. GAO conducted a statistical analysis combining geospatial lead service line and ACS data to identify characteristics of selected communities; reviewed legal requirements and EPA documents; and interviewed EPA officials. GAO is making four recommendations, including that EPA develop (1) guidance for water systems on lead reduction efforts, and (2) a strategic plan that meets the WIIN Act requirement. EPA agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with the others. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- UK National Sentenced to Prison for Role in “The Dark Overlord” Hacking Group
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- VA Research: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Partnerships and Guide Decision-Making with Nonprofits and Academic Affiliates
July 30, 2020The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) extramural research spending totaled about $510 million in fiscal year 2019—nearly half of the $1.1 billion in total spending on VA research. Of the $510 million, federal sources, such as National Institutes of Health, funded $382 million (75 percent), and nonfederal sources, including private entities, academic institutions, state and local governments, and foundations, funded $128 million (25 percent). Spending at the 92 VA medical centers that conducted extramural research in fiscal year 2019 ranged from less than $2 million to more than $10 million (see figure). VA medical centers’ nonprofit research and education corporations (NPC) and academic affiliate partners administered the grants that accounted for 91 percent of the spending. Figure: Extramural Research Spending by VA Medical Centers that Conducted Extramural Research in Fiscal Year 2019 VA has made efforts to promote and support VA medical centers’ partnerships with academic affiliates—for example, by coordinating a mentoring program for local VA research officials—and considers effective affiliations as an enhancement to research. However, VA’s Central Office officials have not provided examples of successful practices for strengthening research partnerships with academic affiliates. Having such practices would promote collaborative opportunities for VA medical centers with academic affiliates, particularly for medical centers that have poor communication with affiliates. Additionally, VA’s Central Office has provided general guidance but not specific tools to VA medical centers for determining when an NPC or an academic affiliate should administer a project’s extramural funds. Having specific decision-making tools could help medical centers make more informed decisions to provide optimal support for the research. VA research, which has contributed to many medical advances, may be funded by VA’s appropriation or extramurally by other federal agencies and nonfederal sources. To access extramural funding, investigators at VA medical centers usually work with an NPC or academic affiliate partner to submit a grant proposal. Once a grant is awarded, medical centers’ partners administer the grant by distributing funding, fulfilling reporting requirements, and performing other administrative activities. GAO was asked to review VA’s extramural research. This report examines, among other objectives, (1) how much VA spent on extramural research in fiscal year 2019 and (2) the efforts VA has made to support medical centers’ partnerships for extramural research. GAO analyzed VA policies, documents, and data. It also conducted site visits and interviewed officials from VA’s Central Office and from a nongeneralizable sample of VA medical centers, NPCs, and academic affiliates, which GAO selected to represent variation in geographic location and funding. GAO recommends that VA (1) provide more information to VA medical centers on strengthening research relationships with academic affiliates and (2) develop decision tools to help VA medical centers determine whether NPCs or academic affiliates should administer extramural grants. VA agreed with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or email@example.com.
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