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7 members of alleged Houston drug ring arrested and charged

HOUSTON - Seven individuals were arrested on Wednesday and the charged for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute hundreds of kilograms of cocaine. These arrests were announced on Thursday by U.S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno and Michael Feinberg, acting special agent in charge of the Immigration and Customs (ICE) Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations in Houston.

The arrests of the seven and the execution on April 28 of four federal search warrants at various locations in Houston and Sugarland, Texas, allegedly associated with the drug organization is the result of a yearlong multi-agency investigation. During the investigation, the criminal complaint alleges more than $1.5 million in alleged drug proceeds have been seized by investigating agents and the search warrants executed at four residences identified as allegedly being used to store and distribute cocaine, and to count and house drug proceeds resulted in additional money and drug seizures.

"Ultimately, drug smuggling is based solely on money, " said Feinberg. "By partnering with other Houston-based law enforcement agencies, we target the huge profits being made and we reach the top levels of these drug trafficking organizations."

ICE agents executed search warrants at three Houston residences located on the 15200 block of Memorial View, the 5200 block of Ireland and 300 block of Branard and a fourth warrant at a Sugarland residence located on the 3300 block of Pecan Point. As a result of that enforcement action, agents seized, according to the criminal complaint, about 147 kilograms of cocaine, 11 assault rifles, five pistols, drug ledgers and hydraulic cocaine presses, and $250,000 in U.S. currency.

The seven persons taken into custody and charged for their alleged involvement in the drug trafficking organization are: Isaias Perez Gallegos Jr., 30, Suleyka Gallegos, 30, both of Sugarland; and Francisco Paniagua Romero, 35, Alvaro D. Palma Jr., 30, Wendy Gallegos, 33, Julio Villanueva, 38, and Fernando Gallegos, 20, all of Houston. All are expected to make their initial appearances before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on Thursday or Friday. At that time the United States will ask the court to set a date for a hearing on the government's motion to detain all seven defendants in federal custody without bond pending further criminal proceedings.

Conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment with a maximum of life and a $4 million fine.

This ICE-led investigation is being conducted under the Houston Money Laundering Initiative (HMLI) under the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force comprised of agents and officers from the following agencies: ICE, the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff's Office, Pasadena Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. HMLI is one of 12 initiatives under HIDTA that specifically targets the money laundering aspect of drug smuggling.