Thursday, December 22, 2011

Six Plead Guilty in 3000+ Pound Marijuana Case

Fugitive Sought

HOUSTON—A total of six men have entered guilty pleas in a case involving the smuggling of more than a ton of marijuana concealed in pallets of watermelons, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Humberto Reyes, 51, of Houston, and Victor Pena, 30, of Roma, Texas, entered their pleas today to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana before United States District Judge David Hittner, while Orlando Ramirez, 41, Lauro Cisneros, 27, both of Roma, Texas; Leonel Pena, 34, of Houston; and Roel Reyna, 47, of Rio Grande City, Texas, pleaded guilty last Friday.

Beginning in June 2011, these men began transporting marijuana via tractor trailer and concealed in pallets of watermelons from McAllen, Texas, to a warehouse in Houston. Once the marijuana reached the warehouse, they would unload the pallets, remove the marijuana and load the marijuana into other vehicles to be delivered for sale.

At their respective plea hearings, the government described how agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) conducted surveillance of the warehouse on July 28, 2011. At that time, Leonel Pena, Victor Pena and Cisneros unloaded pallets of watermelons from a tractor trailer, while Ramirez conducted countersurveillance in the area around the warehouse. Once the pallets were unloaded and the warehouse doors secured, agents observed Reyes and Roel Reyna drive past the warehouse at a slow rate of speed as Reyna was showing Reyes the location. Reyes returned to the warehouse later in a white panel van which he pulled into the warehouse. Agents then followed the van as it left the warehouse and stopped it a short time later. Agents discovered 84 bales of marijuana inside, while a search of the warehouse resulted in the seizure of an additional 53 bales of marijuana. The total weight of the marijuana seized was 3,158 pounds.

All of the defendants have been in custody since their arrests where they will remain pending their sentencing hearings. Judge Hittner has set sentencing for March 13, 2012, at which time they each face a minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in federal prison and a maximum $8 million fine. A seventh defendant, Agapito Lopez, 45, of Roma, Texas, remains a fugitive and a photo of him as attached. Anyone with information as to his whereabouts is asked to contact DEA at 713-693-3000. He is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

The case was investigated by the DEA, FBI and the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard D. Hanes as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.

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