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Houston man sentenced to 30 years for meth smuggling

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — A Houston man was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison for smuggling about 5.1 kilograms of methamphetamine.

This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Alexander Ortega, 24, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle to 360 months in prison for each of the four counts of conviction, which are to be served concurrently. In handing down the sentence, Judge Tagle noted the amount of drugs involved and Ortega's role as leader of the conspiracy. Ortega will also be required to serve five years of supervised release after he completes his prison term.

According to court documents, on March 13, 2011, Omar Lerma-Teniente, 24, of Houston, was caught at the Gateway International Port of Entry with 5.1 kilograms (11 pounds) of methamphetamine hidden under the rear seat of his car. Subsequently, on Oct. 24, 2011, John Phelps, 26, and William Holley, 27, both from Houston, were arrested at the Hidalgo Port of Entry for attempting to smuggle about 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of methamphetamine into the United States. This HSI investigation linked both cases to Ortega.

At trial, evidence proved Ortega recruited Lerma-Teniente, Phelps and Holley. Ortega paid them to smuggle the methamphetamine into the United States from Mexico. Lerma-Teniente, Phelps and Holley were all also convicted in separate, but related cases.

Ortega will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ana Cano, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.