BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A Guatemalan man was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison without parole for trafficking heroin into the United States from Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
U.S. District Judge Hilda Tagle sentenced Linares-Soberanis to 360 months in federal prison for conspiracy to import 17.8 kilograms (39 pounds) of heroin into the United States from Mexico and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute the heroin. Prior to trial, Linares-Sobernais also pleaded guilty to a third count alleged in the indictment: an alien in possessing a firearm. Judge Tagle ordered that each of the first two counts and 120 months on the third count will run concurrently in addition to a five-year-term of supervised released followed by his sentence. He will was also ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.
During trial, the jury learned that on Nov. 6, 2009, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents discovered 17.8 kilograms of heroin concealed in a vehicle driven by a co-conspirator as he entered the United States through a Brownsville, Texas, Port of Entry. The hollow portion of the drive shafts on Dodge pick-ups contained the concealed heroin. Through further investigation, ICE HSI agents learned that a Linares-Sobernais, a Houston salvage yard owner, was the person to whom the drugs were to be delivered and the person who was to pay for the transporting of the drugs from Mexico to Houston.
As ICE HSI agents furthered their investigation into the salvage yard owner, they found the Linares-Soberanis and its owner were under investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for possible firearms violations. Crossing records of the vehicle's lien holder led to the discovery of Fernando Argenis Huezo, a co-conspirator involved in the trafficking. A search warrant was conducted at the salvage yard and at the homes of the co-conspirators on March 11, 2010 in Houston. Linares-Sobernais and Huezo were arrested the same day.
On June 3, 2010, Huezo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import heroin and making a false statement on a firearms record. The driver of the vehicle in which the heroin was found, Felix Dalas Ortega, pleaded guilty on Jan. 13 to possession with intent to distribute heroin. Through testimony, the jury learned that Linares-Sobernais hired, directed and in some instances paid his co-conspirators to import and possess with intent to distribute drugs.
The heroin intercepted at the bridge on Nov. 6, 2010 had an estimated street value of more than $8 million according to the testimony of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
Linares-Sobernais has been in custody without bond since his arrest. He will remain in custody pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility where he will serve out his sentence. Co-defendants Huezo and Ortega are pending sentencing on Feb. 22.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Hagen, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.