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2 south Texas men sentenced to prison for cocaine trafficking

Each will spend the next 15 years in federal prison

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two south Texas men were sentenced Thursday after admitting their guilt to trafficking cocaine in Weslaco, Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

Jose Santos Casas-Gonzalez Sr., 51, and Rogelio Mata-Ramirez, 50, both previously pleaded to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 29 kilograms of cocaine. Senior U.S. District Judge Hayden Head, who accepted their guilty pleas, sentenced Casas-Gonzalez and Mata-Ramirez to 188 months Oct. 11 for trafficking cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In addition to their sentence, the judge also ordered them to serve five-year terms of supervised release following completion of their prison terms.

During sentencing, Judge Head noted that both men were partners in the organization and were equally responsible, and both were involved in multiple loads of cocaine that were received from the Zetas and moved throughout the United States. The court also entered a final order of forfeiture for the real property located at 8129 North F.M. 88, in Weslaco – the location of Rio Shallow Boats Inc.

According to court documents, Casas-Gonzalez and Mata-Ramirez admitted to hiring a driver in December 2010 to transport approximately 30 kilograms of cocaine through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. They also admitted to utilizing Casas-Gonzalez's business, Rio Shallow Boats Inc., to help in the facilitation of their drug trafficking activities. Casas-Gonzalez further acknowledged he used the profits from his drug business to make his boat company appear legitimate. Casas-Gonzalez admitted to using drug money to buy vehicles, pay for personal expenses and reinvest into his business, Rio Shallow Boats Inc.

Casas-Gonzalez and Mata-Ramirez were part of a cocaine conspiracy operating between the Rio Grande Valley and areas north, circumventing U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints by utilizing ranches in South Texas. Both were smuggling large amounts of narcotics, primarily cocaine, through and around the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints to various destinations throughout the United States. They trafficked narcotics using tractor-trailers, boats in the Intracoastal Waterway and in various other ranch vehicles around the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint near Sarita, Texas. Mata-Ramirez is a former employee of the King Ranch and is one of the coordinators for the drug smuggling operations, working for Casas-Gonzalez.

Members of the Zeta organization would supply Casas-Gonzalez with cocaine in which he used Rio Shallow Boats Inc. to fabricate compartments for the smuggling of this contraband in boats, tractor trailers and trucks.

They have both been in custody where they will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

This was a multi-agency investigation dubbed Operation Rio Shallow that was conducted in Corpus Christi, led by HSI.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.