McALLEN, Texas — A member of a drug trafficking conspiracy originating in Starr County, Texas, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years and eight months in prison for his role in smuggling more than 8,000 kilograms (17,637 pounds) of marijuana into the United States in 2013.
This sentenced was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.
This prosecution was a part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed "Operation Casanova." The following agencies investigated this case: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, and the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.
Silvestre Barrera-Villegas 52, of Camargo, Mexico, was sentenced Thursday to 130 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez. Since he is not a U.S. citizen, Barrera-Villegas is also expected to face deportation proceedings after he's released from prison. He pleaded guilty to the drug-trafficking charges Jan. 29.
"This sentence sends a clear message of the consequences of engaging in transnational criminal activity," said Janice Ayala, special agent in charge of HSI San Antonio. "We will continue to work with our federal, state, local and foreign partners to dismantle drug smuggling organizations."
Barrera-Villegas admitted to smuggling marijuana from Mexico near La Casita for further distribution within the U.S. He was assisting Sostenes Ferreira-Garcia, 50, of Rio Grande City; and Jorge Luis Martinez-Moreno, 28, and Homero Daniel Gutierrez-Aguilar, 24, both of Camargo.
Ferreira-Garcia, who coordinated smuggling and distributing the marijuana, was previously sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. Martinez-Moreno and Gutierrez-Aguilar, who assisted with loading and unloading the marijuana, were sentenced to 140 and 112 months in prison, respectively.
At the sentencing, the court took into consideration information that Barrrera-Villegas, along with Ruben Patino-Garcia, took over Ferreira-Garcia's duties after the organization in Mexico became dissatisfied with the work of Ferreira-Garcia.
Patino-Garcia, aka Orejon, 19, and Rosbel Morin-Barrera, aka Zacate, 54, both of Mexico, remain fugitives in this case. The public is encouraged to report tips to HSI by calling (866)-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423). Average phone calls take less than five minutes to complete. The ICE-HSI Tip Line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan F. Alanis, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.