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Houston man sentenced to 28 years for witness tampering and drug trafficking

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Houston man was sentenced Thursday to 28 years for methamphetamine trafficking as well as conspiring to tamper with witnesses by using intimidation and threats, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Julian Luna-Nieto, 44, from Houston, was sentenced May 2 by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen to 28 years in federal prison for each of the two charges which will be served concurrently. In considering the sentence, Judge Hanen noted the threats Luna-Nieto made and that he was the leader of the group involved in smuggling very pure methamphetamine.

According to court documents, Luna-Nieto, a legal permanent resident from Houston, pleaded guilty Sept. 21, 2012, admitting he used intimidation and threats with the intent to influence and prevent testimony in an official proceeding. On Feb. 16, 2012, Luna-Nieto was a passenger in a vehicle that attempted entry into the U.S. through the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. About 12.62 kilograms (27.7 pounds) of crystalized methamphetamine was found hidden in the vehicle. Luna-Nieto admitted he received the loaded vehicle in Mexico and arranged to transport the narcotics to Houston.

While in custody and after being indicted on the narcotics charges, Luna-Nieto coordinated with other inmates to prepare a threat letter against a cooperating witness in an attempt to influence the witness’s testimony. That letter was intercepted by the U.S. Marshals Service. The investigation revealed another threat letter against another cooperating witness with the intent to influence that second witness’s testimony.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted the case.