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Narcotics
01/14/2015

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Head of Gulf Cartel pleads guilty to trafficking drugs

BEAUMONT, Texas — The current leader of the Mexican Gulf Cartel or Cartel del Golfo drug trafficking organization pleaded guilty Thursday to drug trafficking charges, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas.

This joint law enforcement investigation was led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Additional assistance was provided by the following agencies:  Houston HIDTA Group 33; Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); U.S Marshals Service; Texas Department of Public Safety; Texas Attorney General’s Office; National Guard of Texas’s Joint Counterdrug; the Texas police departments of Beaumont, Houston and Nacogdoches; and the Texas sheriff’s offices of Nacogdoches, Jefferson and Harris counties.

Juan Francisco Saenz-Tamez, 23, of Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, pleaded guilty to distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Saenz-Tamez entered his guilty plea Jan. 13 before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone.

According to court information, a federal investigation into the large-scale trafficking of illegal drugs from Mexico into the Eastern District of Texas led to the identity of Saenz-Tamez.  The investigation revealed Saenz-Tamez was responsible for shipping a half-ton of cocaine and 90 tons of marijuana into Texas and across the nation, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Maryland and Georgia.  As a result of this scheme, $100 million was laundered by Saenz-Tamez and his drug trafficking organization.

Saenz-Tamez was indicted by a federal grand jury Sep. 5, 2013 charged with conspiracy with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy with intent to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to money launder.  Saenz-Tamez was arrested by federal agents Oct. 9, 2014 while shopping in Edinburg, Texas.

Saenz-Tamez faces a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison for the drug convictions, and up to 20 years in federal prison for the money laundering conviction.  A sentencing date has not been set.

“This guilty plea marks a great victory in our long struggle against illegal narcotics trafficking and yet we must reiterate what should be self-evident – enforcement is only one part of the solution to what has been an interminable and ugly problem in American culture,” said U.S. Attorney Bales. “The American appetite for narcotics is a stain on our national honor and a dark cloud for our future. The agents working on this case are amazing – they are true American heroes and I congratulate them all.”

“It’s a good day for law enforcement whenever we can take several tons of drugs off 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.”

IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Lucy Cruz stated, “This is an important victory for the American public; the role of IRS-CI in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations.  We are committed to taking the profits away from drug traffickers and putting those individuals in jail.  IRS-CI is proud to provide financial expertise as we work alongside our law enforcement partners and bring these criminals to justice.”

This case resulted from the following ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) joint investigations:  Operation South Park, Operation La Mano Negra, Operation Frontera Chica, Operation Fowl Play and Operation Iceberg.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Craft, Eastern District of Texas.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 07/01/2015