April 29th, 2008 06:12 EST
Commercial Bus Companies Indicted For Drug Trafficking
(Houston, TX) – Eighteen individuals , including alleged drug traffickers and the owners/operators of commercial bus companies operating from Mexico into the Rio Grande Valley to numerous U.S. cities and their drivers, have been indicted for transporting large loads of marijuana and cocaine in specially modified commercial buses and money laundering. The indictment is the result of a long-term Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation Road King II. United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced the unsealing of the indictment today at a press conference. The 16-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury March 31, 2008, was unsealed today.
John P. Walters, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, on an official visit to the Houston area, attended the press conference and commented upon the positive impact the coordinated and cooperative effort federal, state and local law enforcement action has had on reducing the supply of drugs and the concomitant reduction in demand.
Special Agent in Charge Andrew Bland of FBI Houston, together with Special Agent in Charge Zoran B. Yankovich of DEA Houston, recognized their law enforcement colleagues in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA) which, in this case, included the Houston Police Department, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for their long-standing commitment and outstanding contributions to this OCDETF investigation. The U.S. Marshals Service, also a member of HIDTA, was recognized for its extraordinary efforts during the arrest process.
The indictment, unsealed today, describes the use of specially modified commercial buses by alleged drug traffickers interested in smuggling contraband into the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, or transporting contraband from the Rio Grande Valley to Houston and Dallas, Texas; Allentown, Pa.; Joliet, Ill. and elsewhere. The indictment alleges the owners or managers of the Transtar, Neptune Tours, Los Primos, USA-MEX and Ameri-Mex commercial bus companies, with offices and terminals in Monterrey, Mexico and Rio Grande City, Roma, San Antonio and Houston, Texas, used their various companies as a front for their drug transport services, and hired drivers and loaders to transport the illegal cargo in hidden compartments built into the bus or in areas not accessible to the public. In exchange for the services, the indictment alleges the owners/managers of the bus companies received thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the proceeds of the drug loads from which they drew their share and paid the drivers and loaders. According to the indictment, this drug transport service has been in operation since at least November 2001 and is responsible for transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, thousands of pounds of marijuana from the border to points north and millions of dollars in drug proceeds south to Mexico. OCEDTF Operation Road King II targeted this organization beginning in 2001 and through the use of tried and true investigative techniques, communication, coordination and cooperation, ultimately established a more sophisticated undercover operation. Through that undercover operation, more than 570 kilograms of cocaine, 3,000 plus pounds of marijuana and the thousands of dollars in cash have been seized. Additionally, this multi-agency investigative effort has lead to arrests in and the seizure of 200 kilograms of cocaine in Allentown and 1,100 pounds of marijuana in Joliet. Information gathered through the investigation was shared with law enforcement agencies in other U.S. cities including New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida and Maryland.
The indictment identifies Abel Trevino Jr., 43, of Houston; Oscar Jaime Garcia Prado, 42, a resident alien residing in Brookshire, Texas; Miguel Montemayor, 39, a resident alien residing in Roma, Texas; Victor Hinojosa, 41, a resident alien residing in Houston; and Eduardo Trevino, 40, of Linares, Mexico, as the owners/managers of the various commercial bus companies operating as fronts for transporting cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to various locations in the U.S. in exchange for cash payments. The amount of the payment often depended upon the kind of drug, the size of the load and its ultimate destination. For example, the indictment alleges the defendants charge from $500 per kilogram of cocaine bound for the U.S. side of the border to $7,000 per kilogram of cocaine bound for New York. The buses were specially equipped with hidden compartments to conceal loads of contraband from detection. According to allegations in the indictment, the owner/managers discussed ways to operate their buses to protect themselves from detection by law enforcement including changing the names of the bus companies as loads of cocaine and marijuana were seized to claiming the buses were leased to others. Abel Trevino, Montemayor and Hinojosa were arrested today in Houston. A warrant remains outstanding for the arrest of Prado and Eduardo Trevino.
Leticia Enedina Fournier, 58; Guadalupe Karr Cortez, 47, an illegal alien, Jesse Trevino, 48, a resident alien, and Alejandro Carmargo-Guerra, 59, a resident alien, all of Houston; Victor Rocha, 39, a resident alien residing in Dickinson, Texas, and Enrique Alvaro Saldana, 53, a resident alien residing in Roma, Texas, are alleged co-conspirators hired by the owner/managers as bus drivers and loaders who were paid by the owners/managers to transport and deliver the drug loads hidden aboard the commercial buses as directed by the owners/managers. This morning, investigating agents arrested Trevino and Rocha in Houston, Carmargo-Guerra in Waco, Texas, and Cortez in Lake Charles, La. Warrants remain outstanding for the arrest of Fournier and Saldana.
Guadalupe Castaneda, 46, of Roma, Texas; Eduardo Cirilo, 42, of Pharr, Texas; Eduardo Salinas, 29, of Mission, Texas; Jose Armando Muniz, 33, of Weslaco, Texas; Rafael Armando Ramirez, 32, an illegal alien residing in the Houston area; Luis Larios, 36, and Robert Salazar Rivera, 48, both of Monterrey, Mexico, are accused of utilizing and paying for the services of the bus companies to transport loads of cocaine and marijuana to various locations in the United States. Eduardo Salinas was arrested this morning in McAllen, Texas, while Cirilo was arrested today in Baton Rouge, La. Warrants remain outstanding for the arrest of Castaneda, Muniz, Ramirez, Larios and Rivera.
All 18 defendants are charged in the conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and face no less than 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment if convicted. Most of the defendants are also charged with conspiracy to launder drug proceeds and face a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if convicted. The remaining 14 counts of the indictment charge various defendants with aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute varying amounts of either cocaine for marijuana and face punishment ranges upon conviction from a maximum of five years imprisonment to life imprisonment and millions of dollars in fines.
The indictment also serves notice on the defendants of the intent of the United States to forfeit their interests in a number of real properties located in east Houston, Texas, which were allegedly used to facilitate or obtained with proceeds from the crimes alleged in the indictment.
This case will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Rodriguez.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.