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South Texas man sentenced to 9 years in federal prison for drug trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A local man was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in federal prison for his involvement in a major marijuana trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

This Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and also included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, and the Brooks County Sheriff's Department.

Jose Maria Carbajal Jr., 42, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Rainey to 108 months in prison April 16. Carbajal pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and to making a false statement on a loan application to a federally insured bank May 16, 2011.

"It's a good day for law enforcement whenever we can take several tons of drugs off of America's streets," said Brian M. Moskowitz, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "It's even better when we can also dismantle and cripple the organization behind those drugs, and remove its leadership, as our law enforcement team did in this case."

Carbajal transported marijuana from September 2008 to January 2011 through ranches around the Falfurrias U.S. Border Patrol (BP) checkpoint using four-wheel-drive vehicles known as gators to avoid detection. According to court documents, Carbajal's organization loaded the vehicles with marijuana at a point south of the Falfurrias BP checkpoint. Then, the gators navigated through ranches to a point north of the checkpoint so the marijuana could be transported by ground further into the U.S. for distribution. During the investigation, a marijuana-laden gator vehicle was apprehended and another was found abandoned on a ranch.

In December 2010, according to court documents, Carbajal discussed a Dec. 18, 2010 marijuana seizure and his assistance to the Zeta drug cartel in uncovering the identity of those who were cooperating with the government. As part of this assistance, Carbajal claimed to have shown two Zeta operatives the home addresses of two Brooks County law enforcement officials. According to the recorded conversation, the Zeta operatives planned to kidnap the law enforcement officials to coerce them into revealing the names of people cooperating with the government in their drug investigations.

In December 2011, five Brooks County men who assisted Carbajal also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana in a separate case before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos. Sentencing is set for later this year.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jon Muschenheim and Julie Hampton, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.