SAN ANGELO, Texas - Six people, most members and associates of the "Mexican Mafia" gang, were arrested this morning by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in an early morning operation. The gang allegedly operated a major methamphetamine-trafficking operation since 2004, primarily in the Abilene and San Angelo areas, and throughout North Texas.
The arrests were announced by acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks, Northern District of Texas.
Eight alleged members of the methamphetamine-trafficking operation were already in state custody on related charges; another member remains a fugitive.
The 15 defendants are charged in a 15-count federal indictment returned in Lubbock in December 2008, and unsealed Wednesday, with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Most face additional drug and/or firearms charges.
Acting U.S. Attorney Jacks said, "The Mexican Mafia, and gangs like it, use violence and force to control communities and further their drug-trafficking activities. Today's enforcement action, the culmination of a nearly two-year OCDETF investigation, demonstrates that federal, state, and local law enforcement are united in their efforts to shut down dangerous drug-trafficking organizations operating in West Texas and rob them of profits from illegal narcotics sales."
"This long-term ICE-led investigation and these arrests resulted from close partnership with a number of law enforcement agencies," said John Chakwin Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Dallas. "Together we were able to end a narcotics distribution operation by members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang in San Angelo, Texas." Chakwin oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the State of Oklahoma.
San Angelo Police Chief Tim Vasquez said, "I'm very proud of the hard work of our Narcotics Division as well all other agencies who worked on this investigation. We just won a significant battle in our local war on drugs."
Lt. Tracy Fincher, San Angelo Police Department's Narcotics Division Commander, said, "This was a very extensive and time-consuming investigation requiring numerous man hours from many different agencies and a cooperative effort on the part of all agencies. I am very grateful for the hard work of the men and women involved in this investigation. I think our streets are a little safer today because of their hard work."
Lt. Brian Baxter, Texas Department of Public Safety, Narcotics Service, said, "Members of the Mexican Mafia are notoriously violent, ruthless and determined drug-trafficking criminals. Today there are fewer of these folks on the loose in our community. This is thanks to our local, state and federal agencies all pooling resources and working together to put bad guys in jail and take drugs off of the street. None of the agencies involved could have accomplished this alone. I'm extremely proud of everyone that worked so hard, and put in so many hours on this case."
Those defendants arrested this morning (all from San Angelo, Texas) are:
- Eduardo Sosa Martinez Jr., aka "Roro," 33
- Paul Chavez, 41
- Linda Castro Martinez, 35
- Monica Gonzales Martinez, 26
- Gilbert Rodriguez, 28, and
- Steven Madison Tyler, 45.
Those defendants already in custody (all from San Angelo, Texas) are:
- Daniel Arizola, aka "Boy," 34
- Jose Juan Avalos, aka "Juanito," aka "Thumper," 53
- Gilbert Anthony Cuellar, aka "Rascal," 26
- Emilio Lopez Garcia Jr., 36
- Sammy Garcia, aka "Candyman," 40
- Johnny Sosa Martinez, 49
- Russell Coronado Ramos, 39, and
- Armando Villarreal Jr., aka "Chucky," 32.
Defendant Richard Martinez, aka "Beast," 32, of San Angelo, Texas, remains a fugitive.
"The charges announced today have shown once again that the problem of gangs and drugs is not isolated to major metropolitan areas and without the experience and expertise of our local law enforcement partners, it would be nearly impossible to effectively combat these crimes," said Robert E. Casey Jr., special agent in charge of the Dallas FBI.
All of the defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Abilene, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lane.
The Mexican Mafia, also known as "Mexikanemi" or "La Eme," is a prison gang that was originated in the Texas prison system in the early 1980s. It operates under a hierarchical system, with members holding ranks from President down to Prospect. The Mexican Mafia is organized geographically so that each geographical area will have a ranking member to coordinate the gang's efforts.
The ranking member in the Abilene and San Angelo area was defendant Eduardo Sosa Martinez Jr., who held the ranks of Captain and Lieutenant, and was responsible for managing the Mexican Mafia's distribution of methamphetamine in that area.
Part of the Mexican Mafia's constitution states, "[i]n being a criminal organization we will function in any aspect of criminal interest for the benefit of advancement of Mexikanemi. We will traffic in drugs, contracts of assassination, prostitution, robbery of high magnitude and in anything we can imagine."
Eduardo Sosa Martinez Jr. used Mexican Mafia members and others to distribute methamphetamine to others for further distribution and for personal use, and he also used them to collect debts owed for methamphetamine. Often the Mexican Mafia members used threats, coercion, intimidation and violence to collect these debts owed. Sometimes Mexican Mafia members stole personal property from individuals for methamphetamine debts.
In addition to being actively involved in the methamphetamine trade, the Mexican Mafia imposed a "tax" on other individuals involved in trafficking narcotics by charging individuals who trafficked narcotics in their area. Mexican Mafia members often used threats, coercion, intimidation and violence to collect this tax or to prevent other individuals from trafficking narcotics in its geographical area.
The indictment charges defendants Eduardo Sosa Martinez Jr., Jose Juan Avalos, Paul Chavez, Gilbert Anthony Cuellar, Sammy Garcia, Johnny Sosa Martinez, Linda Castro Martinez, Monica Gonzales Martinez, Richard Martinez, and Steven Madison Tyler, with one or more substantive drug counts.
Defendant Gilbert Anthony Cuellar is also charged with two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, and two counts of being a convicted felon possessing a firearm. Defendant Eduardo Sosa Martinez Jr. is also charged with one count of being a felon possessing a firearm.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury, and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. However, if convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison, a fine of up to $4 million, and a life term of supervised release.
While stating the investigation is ongoing, acting U.S. Attorney Jacks praised the excellent investigative efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), ICE, the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, the San Angelo Police Department, the Tom Green County Sheriff's Office, the Tom Green County District Attorney's Office, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Security Threat Group Gang Intelligence Unit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey R. Haag, of the Lubbock, Texas, U.S. Attorney's Office, is prosecuting the case.