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2 men receive lengthy prison sentences for trafficking Gulf Cartel drugs

Forfeitures include $1.5 million and several vehicles

BEAUMONT, Texas - Two men were sentenced on Thursday to federal prison for their part in a wide-scale drug trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas. The investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Both individuals were sentenced on May 9 by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone following their conviction for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

Ramon Anthony Nunez, 38, of Allentown, Pa., pleaded guilty on Sep. 22, 2010 to these charges and was sentenced to 17 ½ years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit a vehicle and $1.5 million. Jesus Manuel Castillo, 39, of Jennings, Fla., pleaded guilty on Sep.13 and was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.

Evidence showed that in 2006 and 2007, the conspiracy was responsible for shipments of marijuana exceeding 66,000 pounds. The marijuana, supplied by the Gulf Cartel, was smuggled from Mexico into the southeast Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and was staged in San Benito and Devine, Texas. From there, it was transported by commercial trucks through the Eastern Texas to Georgia, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

On Oct. 4, 2010, Brian Holmes, 51, of Austell, Ga., the truck driver, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana, two counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was sentenced to 17 ½ years in federal prison, and ordered to forfeit a tractor trailer.

On Sep. 22, 2010, Gilberto Guerra III, 36, of McAllen, Texas, pleaded guilty to attempting to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison.

According to court documents, on Sep. 15, 2007, federal agents stopped a vehicle registered to Holmes which contained over 6,000 pounds of marijuana. The investigation revealed that Holmes was involved in a major marijuana distribution enterprise responsible for bringing thousands of pounds of marijuana through Eastern Texas for distribution throughout the country. Guerra owned a stash house in the Rio Grande Valley which was used in the conspiracy to store drugs.

Nunez was responsible for receiving tons of marijuana in Pennsylvania that authorities traced to the Gulf Cartel in Mexico. Castillo assisted in packaging the marijuana for interstate shipment, and arranged logistics for the drivers and other co-conspirators. He was also involved in financial transactions for the drug trafficking enterprise.

This case was investigated by the following agencies: ICE HSI; U.S. Coast Guard's Criminal Investigative Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; Orange County Sheriff's Office Drug Interdiction Unit; the Texas Department of Public Safety; Jefferson County Crime Lab; U.S. Border Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Allentown, Pa., Police Department.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall L. Fluke and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Baylor Wortham, Eastern District of Texas.