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May 4, 2022Corpus Christi, TX, United StatesNarcotics

Ninth individual sentenced for role in massive gang-related drug trafficking conspiracy following OCDEFT operation that included ICE HSI

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A Texas man was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in federal prison for his role in a massive gang-related drug trafficking conspiracy following an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) operation that included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Joe Daniel Davila, a 29-year-old Corpus Christi resident, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to 10 years in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release for violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute and conspiring to distribute narcotics. Davila pleaded guilty to the charges July 23, 2021.

At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence that detailed Davila’s role as a distributor of narcotics at various drug houses located in Corpus Christi and Robstown, Texas.

Davila was selling the narcotics at drug premises aka “trap houses” which the Texas “Mexikan” Mafia (TMM) operated. Many of these homes were equipped with electronic security systems and had doors reinforced with braces to make law enforcement entry difficult. Authorities also found firearms in some of these “trap houses.” Davila would oversee the selling of drugs at some of these houses and make sure the profits of the sales would go to TMM leadership.

The investigation began in Robstown in 2015. Law enforcement was eventually able to discover that TMM was operating these houses in both Robstown and Corpus Christi and maintaining the premises as one of their sources of income.

The TMM has a constitution that governs the enterprise which states that 10% percent of the profits from any member’s business or interest shall be contributed to the organization. TMM collects this fee, referred to as “the dime,” from members, prospective members and sympathizers. These individuals also earn their income by trafficking heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine on their own, which TMM then distributes.

The sentencing brought the total number of individuals ordered to prison for their role in the large-scale drug conspiracy to nine.

Robert Martinez Hinojosa, 63, Alice, Texas; and Matthew John Sayles, 42, Raul Benavides, 48, Juan Lebrado Pena, 31, and Gilberto Saldana Jr., 41, all of Corpus Christi, pleaded guilty to violating the RICO statute. Hinojosa received 268 months, while Sayles, Benavides, Pena and Saldana received respective sentences of 90, 108, 210 and 271 months.

Four others were convicted of conspiring to distribute narcotics - Sergio Pena, 26, Danny Ray Martinez, 32, and Serenity McCracken, 44, all of Corpus Christi; and Raul Valdez, 47, San Antonio. Pena and Martinez each received 120-month prison terms, while McCracken is serving 36 months. Valdez is pending sentencing.

All have been and remain in custody. Davila is pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Other law enforcement agencies that participated in the OCDETF operation known as “Operation Charco Trece” included: Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S Marshals Service; IRS - Criminal Investigation; Texas Department of Public Safety. Also providing assistance were sheriff’s offices in Nueces and Victoria Counties and police departments in Corpus Christi, Ingleside, Aransas Pass, Robstown and Portland.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brittany L. Jensen and Michael Hess prosecuted the case.

OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 Special Agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.