HOUSTON — Two more defendants were sentenced Thursday, totaling 15 criminals that have now been brought to justice for their respective roles in either a cocaine-trafficking conspiracy or an alien smuggling/marijuana-trafficking conspiracy that resulted from a local gang investigation.
These sentences were announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Eastern District of Texas, and Special Agent in Charge Brian M. Moskowitz of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Houston.
This investigation was conducted by HSI, the Houston Police Department, and members of the Houston Texas Anti-Gang Center (TAG).
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon ordered Teyes-Sanchez July 2 to serve a total 70 months in federal prison; Rivas-Vargas will serve 41 months. As non-U.S. citizens, both are expected to face deportation proceedings after they are released from prison. During sentencing, Judge Harmon noted that each defendant was part of a group of individuals who sold multi-ounce quantities of cocaine for several years. The group was also involved in selling and using firearms as a part of their drug trade.
Aldo Teyes-Sanchez, 32, from El Salvador, and Antonio Rivas-Vargas, 31, from Mexico, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic cocaine Aug. 30, 2013, and Sept. 5, 2014, respectively.
With the exception of one defendant, Eulogio Alanis, who has not yet been sentenced, these sentences conclude an HSI operation which initially targeted the Southwest Cholo street gang. Although not all were involved in gang activity, the resulting investigation led to indictments against 16 defendants. Four were charged with a cocaine conspiracy, while the other 12 faced marijuana and alien smuggling charges.
Those involved in alien smuggling smuggled illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border. The illegal aliens were required to pay a fee or transport narcotics into the country to satisfy their smuggling debt. To date, all 16 defendants have been convicted and 15 are now headed to or are in federal prison.
The TAG Center, initially funded by a grant from the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, houses seven state, local and federal investigative agencies and staff from the Houston District Attorney’s Office. The TAG Center is charged with integrating intelligence and information to coordinate and conduct criminal investigations to proactively and effectively combat organized criminal gangs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Donnelly, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted these cases.