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February 22, 2012Houston, TXUnited StatesTransnational Gangs

'Raza Unida' gang member convicted for methamphetamine trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The last gang member, who was part of a local drug trafficking conspiracy involving gang leadership inside and outside of the Texas prison system, was convicted by a federal jury Wednesday, announced U.S Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. The jury returned its guilty verdict after a two-day trial and one hour of deliberation.

This conviction resulted from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) dubbed "Operation Prison Cell." This joint investigation also included the following agencies: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Office of Inspector General; and the Corpus Christi Police Department's (CCPD) Gang and Organized Crime Units.

Orlando Garcia, 33, was the final defendant to be found guilty in a seven-count indictment that involved 13 other defendants.

During the trial, the jury heard testimony that Garcia acted as an intermediary between drug traffickers in Arkansas and Karlos Bouchot, a ranking Raza Unida gang member who was in prison at the time of the conspiracy. Jurors heard recordings of a court-ordered interception of phone calls that Bouchot made to Garcia. In these phone calls, Garcia stated he had arranged for six pounds of methamphetamine to be purchased in Arkansas. The buyers of the methamphetamine were to pay more than $20,000 per pound of methamphetamine.

Garcia and Bouchot agreed they, as well as the gang, stood to make thousands of dollars in profit from this one deal alone. Jurors also heard Garcia state that he was dealing methamphetamine received from gang members in Corpus Christi. The jury also heard that HSI special agents later discovered methamphetamine at a stash house in Corpus Christi. The methamphetamine was more than 90 percent pure and weighed more than 12 pounds. Garcia and another defendant, Johnny Joe Guerra, searched the stash house after federal agents raided it. Guerra, a Raza Unida leader, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in federal prison for his involvement in the conspiracy. Bouchot also pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing March 9.

The following six defendants also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing March 9: Preston Mascorro, Jerome Aranda, Israel Plazola, Michael Ornelas, Valerie Botello and Jose Manuel Ledezma. The following five defendants charged have already pleaded guilty and were sentenced: Rudy Rodriguez, Anthony Torres, Ricky Alejandro, Martin Guardiola III and Stephen Ayala; they were sentenced to 324, 177, 150, 190 and 87 months, respectively.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, who presided over this trial, set Garcia's sentencing for May 3, at which time he faces up to life in prison and an $8 million fine. He will remain in custody pending that sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Patterson and Michael Hess, Southern District of Texas, are prosecuting this case.

Updated: 09/23/2014