By Ray Gomez
Story Created: Aug 5, 2008
GULF CARTEL DEFENDANTS ENTER PLEAS OF GUILTY
(LAREDO, Texas) – Seven members of the Gulf Cartel have pleaded guilty to drug or money laundering charges, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced today.
Roberto Camacho, 22, Arturo Palencia, 21, Gustavo Fabian Chapa, 22, Rene Garcia, 29, Raul Castillo, 31, and Jorge Rodriguez, 21, all of Laredo, Texas, and Eduardo Carreon-Ibarra, aka Negro, 24, of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, entered pleas of guilty to various charges in federal court before the Honorable District Judge Micaela Alvarez this morning. The defendants, alleged members of the Gulf Cartel, were charged in a 47-count indictment which alleged drug and money laundering conspiracies, kidnapping conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, use of a juvenile to commit a violent crime, accessory after the fact and substantive drug, money laundering and firearm charges.
Camacho and Chapa pleaded guilty to count 42 charging possession with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine stemming from the receipt, packaging and transportation of 10 ounces of cocaine from Laredo to Dallas, Texas, in April 2006. They each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million dollars, followed by term of supervised release for a period of up to three years.
Palencia entered a plea of guilty to counts 20 and 21 charging him with possession with intent to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana and possession and discharge of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Palencia faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years imprisonment, a $2 million fine followed by a period of supervised release not to exceed four years for the marijuana conviction. In addition, Palencia faces a consecutive sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment for the firearms conviction. His charges stem from the importation of approximately 130 kilograms of marijuana across the river near Pico Road on Jan. 26, 2006. Co-conspirators crossed the marijuana on backpacks from Mexico to the U.S. side. During the attempted arrest of the subjects, one subject fired at the border patrol agents attempting to make the arrests, allowing the subjects the opportunity to flee back to Mexico.
Castillo and Rodriguez pleaded guilty to count one and two of the indictment charging each of them with a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. Between March 2007 and February 2008, Castillo and Rodriguez transported 500-600 kilogram loads of cocaine from Laredo to Dallas, Texas, utilizing passenger buses and tractor trailers, and brought shipments of drug proceeds back from Dallas to Laredo for export to Mexico. In February 2008, Castillo and Rodriguez were intercepted as they transported $870,535 in cash from Dallas. Both men face a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment to be followed by a maximum five years for the drug conspiracy conviction and a $4 million fine. The money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the money laundered.
Lastly, Garcia and Carreon-Ibarra pleaded guilty to counts 24 and 26 of the indictment. Count 24 charges the defendants with interstate or foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering (ITAR) enterprises, while count 26 charges them with possession of a firearm in relation to a violence crime. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine and a supervised release term of up to three years for the ITAR charge. The firearms conviction carries a consecutive sentence of five years to life, a similar fine and a supervised release term of up to five years for the firearms charge. These charges stem from activities which took place between Jan. 31, 2006, and Feb. 19, 2006, during which Carreon-Ibarra and a juvenile came to Laredo to kill a rival drug cartel member. Garcia and others were involved in traveling to Mexico to obtain expense monies for the “sicarios” (assassins), providing them with rooms at local hotels, acquiring firearms for them to use and supplying a get-away car for their escape. The Laredo Police Department (LPD) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) were able to arrest the subjects before they were able to carry out their planned execution.
Other defendants charged in this indictment are pending trial or fugitives.
The indictment was a result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Prophecy conducted by special agents and task force agents of the DEA and Investigators and officers of the LPD with the assistance of agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s BEST task force, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Texas Department of Public Safety, Untied States Marshals Service and the Webb County Sheriff’s Office.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno.