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Transnational Gangs

'Raza Unida' gang member sentenced to life for methamphetamine trafficking

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A life-in-prison sentence was imposed Thursday on a "Raza Unida" gang member who was convicted for drug trafficking that involved his gang leadership both inside and outside of the Texas prison system, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Prison Cell," was conducted jointly by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Office of Inspector General; and the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Gang and Organized Crime Units.

Orlando Garcia, 33, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was sentenced to life in federal prison May 24 by Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack on May 24 in Corpus Christi federal court. Garcia was convicted in February by a federal jury and is 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 member who was in prison at the time of the conspiracy. Jurors heard recordings, made pursuant to a court-ordered interception, of phone calls that Bouchot made to Garcia while in prison. In these phone calls, Garcia arranged for six pounds of methamphetamine to be purchased in Arkansas. The buyers were to pay more than $20,000 per pound of methamphetamine.

Garcia and Bouchot agreed they, as well as the gang itself, stood to make thousands of dollars in profit from this one deal alone. Jurors also heard Garcia state that he was dealing methamphetamine, which he received from gang members in Corpus Christi. The jury also heard that HSI special agents later discovered this cache of 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 also sentenced to life in federal prison for his involvement in the conspiracy.

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