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8 south Texas men arrested after drug trafficking, money laundering indictment

MCALLEN, Texas - Eight men from south Texas were arrested on Friday and charged with conspiracy to posses with intent to distribute controlled substances, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. These arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas, and Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in San Antonio.

A sealed indictment was partially unsealed May 7 after eight men were arrested during an ICE-led multi-agency enforcement action. The men are from the following Texas cities: Donna, Edinburg, San Juan and Weslaco. The arrests resulted from an ICE investigation which began in January 2009.

"The safety of our communities is one of ICE's top priorities," said Robinette. "ICE and our state, federal and local law enforcement partners pool information and resources to target drug smuggling and money laundering organizations, and related criminal elements."

"The ICE investigation leading to this morning's coordinated multi-agency cooperative law enforcement effort in the Rio Grande Valley demonstrates our continuing efforts to work together to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking activity by not only targeting the product of drug trafficking but also the proceeds generated by the illegal activity and holding accountable those allegedly involved," said Moreno.

Those arrested include the following:

  • David Tijerina, 41, Jesus Davila, 28, and Jaime Galvan, 29, all of Weslaco
  •  Ramon De Luna, 53, and Jesus De Luna, 31, both of San Juan
  • Ramiro Gracia-Cantu, 36, and Carlos Valdez, 30, both of Edinburg
  • Juan Guerra, 29, of Donna

All were arrested as a result of a nine-count superseding indictment returned on Dec. 29, 2009. All eight defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby. They have been ordered temporarily detained without bond pending arraignment and detention hearings set for May 12 at 9 a.m. The indictment remains partially sealed pending the execution of an arrest warrant which remains outstanding for one other individual charged but not yet in custody.

Those arrested May 7 were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances between October 2004 and May 19, 2009, allegedly involving more than five kilograms (11 pounds) of cocaine and more than 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of marijuana. With the exception of Valdez, the remaining defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering during the same time period.

Several of the defendants taken into custody are charged in substantive counts for their alleged involvement in drug trafficking and or money laundering.

Following is a breakdown of the charges against each of the eight men indicted:

  • Four of the eight defendants, Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Galvan, are charged separately with laundering about $1,975,261 in alleged drug proceeds in January 2009.
  • Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Valdez are charged with possessing with intent to distribute 89 kilograms (196 pounds) of cocaine on Feb. 12, 2009.
  • Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu, Ramon De Luna and Guerra are charged with the laundering about $389,900 in alleged drug proceeds on Feb. 24, 2009.
  • Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu, Jesus De Luna and Guerra are charged with laundering about $390,050 in alleged drug proceeds on Feb. 25, 2009.
  • Tijerina, Davila, Gracia-Cantu and Valdez are charged with possessing with intent to distribute 72 kilograms (158 pounds) of cocaine on March 5, 2009.
  • Lastly, Gracia-Cantu is charged with possessing with intent to distribute about 1,915 kilograms (4,213 pounds) of marijuana on May 19, 2009.

The ICE-led investigation was coordinated and assisted by the following law enforcement agencies: the FBI, Hidalgo County District Attorney's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department, the Hidalgo County Constable's Office - Precinct 4, Pharr Police Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Air and Marine Operations, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and San Juan Police Department.

The charged drug-trafficking offenses carry a punishment of not less than 10 years to up to life imprisonment and $4 million in fines, upon conviction. The money laundering charges carry, upon conviction, a maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines.

These eight arrests bring the total of persons arrested under this indictment to 12. Four others were previously arrested in spring of 2009 and fall of 2010. They are: Michael Talamantes, Oscar Martinez, and Jose Angel Castillo-Reyna all of Edinburg, Texas, and Oscar Villarreal, of Donna, Texas.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anibal J. Alaniz and Linda Requenez Rossborough, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct and is not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.