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Narcotics
03/06/2013

7 members of the Texas Mexican Mafia and their associates arrested on federal charges

Those arrested engaged in a pattern of extortion, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, and gun smuggling

DEL RIO, Texas — Seven members and their associates of the Texas Mexican Mafia (TMM) were arrested Tuesday based on a federal indictment charging them with racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) to include narcotics trafficking and firearms offenses. One additional associate was arrested for misprision of a felony. A ninth TMM associate was indicted for cocaine trafficking in a separate indictment and remains at large.

The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety – Criminal Investigations Division, and DEA. Assistance was also provided by ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This case will be prosecuted in the Del Rio Division of the Western District of Texas.

Those arrested, and charged by indictment include: Jesus Meza, Jr., 43; Jose Cardona, aka "Tinga," 43; Roberto Villarreal, aka "Flaco," 46; Ricardo Zapata, aka "Richie, 40; Daniel Rosario-Lara, aka "Diablo," 29; Joel Costilla, aka "Sharky," 20; Joe Lee Jimenez, 26; Ray Salgado, 21; and Jessica Meza, 20. Pedro Armando Cardona, 29, remains at large.

"Today's arrests show our collective resolve in Del Rio to attack and dismantle these dangerous street gangs," said Vincent Iglio, acting special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio." HSI remains committed to identifying gang members and removing them from the streets in the name of public safety."

"Today's arrests confirm our on-going and collective efforts to continue the dismantling of the Texas Mexican Mafia wherever we find them operating, " said Armando Fernandez, special agent in charge of the FBI.

According to court documents, a federal grand jury returned an indictment Feb. 27 that was unsealed March 5. The indictment alleges that since June 1, 2010, the seven defendants charged with conspiring to violate the RICO Act were members or associates of the TMM and engaged in a pattern of extortion, attempted murder, attempted kidnapping, narcotics trafficking and gun smuggling.

The TMM is alleged to have transported bulk shipments of marijuana on behalf of a narcotics distributer based in Mexico affiliated with the Los Zetas Drug Trafficking Organization and supplied firearms to narcotics traffickers based in Mexico. The indictment also alleges that the defendants conspired to extort money from narcotics traffickers operating in Del Rio through the coercive collection of a ten percent drug tax, also known as "the dime." Collection of "the dime" was enforced by robbery, serious bodily injury or other acts of violence.

The indictment also charges defendants Meza, Lara, and Costilla with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana; defendants Meza, Cardona, Salgado, Costilla, and Jimenez with possessing with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine; defendants Meza, Villarreal, and Costilla with smuggling an AR-15 style assault rifle to Mexico; and defendant Meza is charged with possessing six assault rifles after previously being convicted of a felony offense.

Upon conviction, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison on the RICO charge; between five and 40 years in federal prison for the marijuana charge; up to 20 years in prison on the cocaine charge; and up to 10 years in prison for each firearm charge.

Jessica Meza is facing two counts of misprision of a felony – alleging that she knowingly concealed the drug distribution crimes of others – and faces up to three years in prison for each count.

An additional indictment charges Pedro Armando Cardona with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, as well as possessing with intent to distribute cocaine. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

All eight defendants in custody had their initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Victor Garcia March 5. All eight were detained pending a detention hearing set for 9:00am on Friday, March 8, 2013.

This case is being prosecuted by the Western District of Texas. An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.