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Mexican national pleads guilty to possessing methamphetamine

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – A Mexican national pleaded guilty on Thursday to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and being an alien possessing a firearm, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Rigoberto Munoz-Vargas, 37, admitted to U. S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen on Feb. 2 that he arranged to ship 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds) of 100 percent pure methamphetamine to be delivered to his girlfriend's apartment in the Houston area. He intended to use scales, which were found during a search of his girlfriend's residence, to weigh the methamphetamine and distribute it. Munoz-Vargas also admitted he had purchased a .40-caliber "Fabrique Nationale" handgun and stored it at the apartment where the methamphetamine was found. Munoz-Vargas is a Mexican national with no legal status to enter, work or reside in the United States.

Munoz-Vargas was arrested, along with his nephew, Edgar Munoz-Munoz, 24, also a Mexican national, following the return of a partially unsealed, 14-count indictment in December 2011. HSI special agents executed a search of his home, as well as his girlfriend's apartment.

The 30-month investigation by HSI revealed that Munoz-Vargas was the leader of a long-term narcotics conspiracy in which large quantities of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine were transported from Mexico to Houston through the Rio Grande Valley. Munoz-Vargas and his organization used ports of entry throughout South Texas in attempts to smuggle narcotics. Between November 2001 and March 2009, Munoz-Vargas and his organization were linked to nine separate narcotics seizures with a total of more than 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of marijuana and seven kilograms (15.4 pounds) of cocaine.

The indictment remains partially sealed pending the arrest of the remaining co-conspirators.

Munoz-Vargas will remain in federal custody pending his sentencing before Judge Hanen on May 7, at which time he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and up to life for the methamphetamine conviction, as well as a maximum of 10 years for being an alien possessing a firearm. He also faces up to $10 million in fines.

Assistant U. S. Attorney V. LaTawn Warsaw, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.