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6 south Texas men arrested for marijuana trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Six south Texas men were arrested this week for their parts in a marijuana trafficking organization, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The five-count indictment returned under seal May 23 was partially unsealed as the defendants were taken into custody. The investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the multi-agency Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

Jesus Gregorio Lopez, 63, of Mission, Texas, was taken into custody June 8. Flavio Tamez, 47, and Jesus Marroquin, 49, both of Rio Grande City, Texas; Alejandro Garza, 42, Roberto Garza, 40, both of Mission; and Adrian De la Garza, 41, of Sullivan City, Texas, were arrested June 7. The indictment remains sealed regarding the others charged in the indictment who are not yet in custody.

Lopez is expected to appear Friday afternoon in Corpus Christi before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ellington, at which time the United States will seek his continued detention without bond pending his trial. De la Garza appeared in Houston court Thursday afternoon; Alejandro Garza appeared in Lubbock Friday. The remaining defendants made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Peter Ormsby in McAllen, Texas, Friday morning. All were ordered to remain in custody pending further criminal proceedings.

The defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms (2,205 lbs.) of marijuana, for which they all face at least 10 years and up to life in prison. Alejandro and Roberto Garza are also charged with possession with the intent to distribute 503 kilograms (1,109 lbs.) of marijuana, which carries a penalty of an additional five to 40 years imprisonment. Marroquin faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of loan fraud. The loan fraud charge stems from an allegation that he made a false statement regarding his income so he could obtain a loan with State Farm Insurance Bank, which is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The indictment includes a notice to Tamez and Lopez of the government's intent to criminally forfeit three pieces of real property located in Starr and Brooks counties. The indictment also seeks $500,000 personal money judgments against Alejandro and Roberto Garza, and Tamez.

During the arrests, officers also executed four separate search warrants in Rio Grande City and Mission, Texas, where several pieces of jewelry were seized, as well as a vehicle that allegedly had drug residue in a hidden compartment. Additionally, a search warrant was executed at a south Texas bank of a safe deposit box which contained more than $213,000 and various pieces of jewelry. The government is also seeking forfeiture of the currency and the jewelry.

The OCDETF investigation led by HSI was conducted in Corpus Christi with the following other agencies: Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations; Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Texas Department of Public Safety; Brooks County Sheriff's Office; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and CBP's Border Patrol; and U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

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.