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3 south Texas men convicted of marijuana trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Three men from Rio Grande City, Texas, were convicted Thursday of a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The federal jury returned its verdicts after seven days of trial and less than seven hours of deliberation.

This Corpus Christi investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and assisted by the following agencies: Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Texas Department of Public Safety; Brooks County Sheriff's Office; U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Border Patrol; Texas sheriff's offices in Jim Hogg and Hidalgo counties; Jones Ranch Security Personnel; Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Roberto Garza, 42, Jesus Gregorio Lopez, aka Goyo Lopez, 62, and Ramon Zamora, 51, were convicted of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana from 2003 until their arrests in June 2012.

These latest convictions bring the total to 12 men who have been convicted regarding this organized crime drug enforcement task force investigation.

Previously, nine co-conspirators charged in the same indictment entered guilty pleas to charges related to their participation in this conspiracy. Flavio Tamez, 47, and Jesus Marroquin, 49, both of Rio Grande City; Samuel Garcia, 51, Onofre Lopez, 37, Jose Figueroa, 35, Edwardo Munoz, 35, and Rene Salazar, 42, all of Falfurrias; Alejandro Garza, 42, of Mission; and Adrian De la Garza, 41, of Sullivan City, are currently awaiting sentencing in December.

The defendants were arrested in June for their participation in a large-scale south Texas drug trafficking organization. The criminal organization that employed the defendants specialized in avoiding the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint by crossing south Texas ranches adjacent to the checkpoint. Tamez, Alejandro Garza, Roberto Garza and Marroquin have been identified as leaders in this criminal organization.

Evidence presented at trial by the government included 19 marijuana seizures directly linked to this organization, totaling more than three tons of marijuana seized by law enforcement. Further, evidence presented showed that an outdoor restroom (outhouse) was used by the organization to hide marijuana on one of the ranches. The outhouse has a secret underground compartment where they stored up to 1,000 pounds of marijuana at a time. Evidence also included multiple vehicles used by this organization to circumvent the checkpoint, including trucks and multiple all-terrain vehicles.

Also, Tamez agreed to the criminal forfeiture of two pieces of real property located in Starr County: a house built using drug proceeds, and a business used to conduct his drug business. Tamez also agreed to forfeit $230,000 in currency seized from a safe deposit box where drug proceeds were hidden. Further, Marroquin agreed to criminally forfeit several pieces of jewelry and $6,000 in currency seized during his arrest.

In addition, the government filed criminal forfeiture proceedings against three real properties, including a ranch owned by Jesus Gregorio Lopez. The government is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of $500,000 against Roberto Garza. The real properties involved in this conspiracy were either purchased with drug proceeds or used to facilitate the drug trafficking activity. The ranch known as “Campo de Goyo” or the “Carolina Ranch,” was specifically used by this organization as a staging area to store large quantities of marijuana before proceeding through the ranches around the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint.

Roberto Garza, based upon the amount of marijuana involved and his criminal history, faces no less than 20 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

Jesus Gregorio Lopez and Zamora, based upon the amount of marijuana involved, face no less than 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment.

Sentencing has been set for Jan. 23. All defendants, with the exception of Jesus Gregorio Lopez, have been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.