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Houston man convicted in south Texas of witness tampering, drug trafficking

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Houston man pleaded guilty Friday to methamphetamine trafficking and witness tampering, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), along with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

Julian Luna-Nieto, 43, a permanent resident of the United States living in Houston, Texas, appeared before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen Sept. 21 and admitted to using intimidation and threats to influence and prevent testimony in an official proceeding.

According to court documents, on Feb. 16, 2012, Luna-Nieto was a passenger in a vehicle that attempted entry into the United States through the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville. CBP officers discovered about 12.62 kilograms (27.7 pounds) of crystalized methamphetamine hidden in the vehicle. Luna-Nieto admitted that he had received the loaded vehicle in Mexico and arranged to transport the narcotics to Houston.

After being indicted on the narcotics charges and while in custody, Luna-Nieto coordinated with other inmates to prepare a threatening letter to try to influence testimony of a cooperating witness. USMS intercepted that letter. The investigation also revealed another threatening letter to influence a second witness's testimony.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen set sentencing for Dec. 24. Luna-Nieto faces up to life in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.