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Contraband
03/02/2011

7 arrested and charged with distributing drugs and money laundering

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A sealed indictment charging seven Brownsville-area residents with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and/or laundering the drug proceeds was unsealed on Wednesday following the arrest of the defendants. The arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney José Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas.

The seven defendants were arrested March 2 in Corpus Christi by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), which includes U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Stained Glass," led to the criminal charges of the following individuals: Arturo Gomez, 31; Magda Zendejas, 28; Reyna Ceballos, 21; Julio Gonzalez, 45; David Alcala, 30; Vanessa Weaver, 28; and Sonia Garcia-Medina, 26. All seven are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Felix Recio in Brownsville March 3. The United States will seek the continued detention without bond of all defendants pending further criminal proceedings.

The four-count indictment returned on Feb 23, by a Corpus Christi grand jury and now unsealed charges five of the six named defendants - Gomez, Zendejas, Ceballos, Gonzalez and Alcala -with conspiring for a two-year period beginning in January 2009 to possess with intent to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine. Based upon the amount of the alleged cocaine involved, the defendants face no less than 10 years, and a maximum of life imprisonment if convicted. This enforcement action resulted in seizing about $524,000 in U.S. currency and two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of cocaine at a residence on the 500 block of Salvatierra in Brownsville.

Gomez is also charged individually with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments which carries a maximum 20-year prison term upon conviction. Gomez is charged in a separate count with smuggling $47,205 in bulk cash. Weaver is also charged in a separate count with smuggling $16,530 in bulk cash. A conviction for bulk-cash smuggling carries a maximum five-year-term of imprisonment upon conviction. Included in the indictment is a notice of the government's intent to seek a money judgment in the amount of $1 million against Gomez, alleging the sum constitutes the total from laundered drug proceeds and therefore forfeitable to the United States.

The seventh person arrested, Garcia-Medina, is charged separately by criminal complaint with being an alien illegally present in the U.S. after having been previously deported. Garcia-Medina faces up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case. An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.