EL PASO, Texas — An El Paso man pleaded guilty Nov. 18 to his role in the drug smuggling Velasco Criminal Enterprise (VCE).
This case was jointly investigated by following by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Samuel Velasco Gurrola, 41, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. He faces up to life in federal prison when sentenced.
By pleading guilty, Velasco Gurrola admitted to committing the following crimes:
- conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana;
- conspiring to commit a kidnapping in a foreign country; and
- threatening a victim by exhibiting a firearm while stealing property.
According to court records, VCE is responsible for large-volume drug trafficking, money laundering, international and cross-border kidnappings, extortion, robbery, and car theft, among other offenses. VCE operates across the United States in Nevada, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, California and Texas. VCE also operates in Mexico; its base of operations is in El Paso.
Court records also reveal VCE is responsible for the international and multi-state distribution of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine. Narcotics were transported from Mexico to El Paso, and also to Deming and Lordsburg, New Mexico, by VCE and then distributed to cities such as Dallas and Las Vegas, and others in North and South Carolina.
VCE also is involved in laundering drug proceeds internationally and nationally, through banks and other institutions. From at least 2008 through 2013, VCE is responsible for committing multiple kidnappings per month that were planned in El Paso, and then carried out in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Prior to his guilty plea, on Oct. 17, 2016, jurors convicted Velasco Gurrola on another case of three counts of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and four counts of conspiracy to cause foreign travel for murder for hire.
According to evidence presented during a 2008 trial, Velasco Gurrola was married to Ruth Sagredo Escobedo. At the time, Velasco Gurrola was under indictment in El Paso County for aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child. Velasco Gurrola wanted to prevent Sagredo from testifying against him at the aggravated sexual assault trial.