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South Texas attorney, his father and 17 others sentenced for drug trafficking

MCALLEN, Texas — A total of 19 people were sentenced to federal prison Thursday for their roles in a drug trafficking conspiracy originating out of Starr County involving more than 10,000 kilograms of marijuana in 2012 and 2013, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.

U.S. District Judge Crane sentenced south Texas attorney Jose Luis Palacios Jr., 38, of Mission, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. His father, Jose Luis Palacios Sr., 64, a U.S. permanent resident of Edinburg and owner of J&J Auto Sales in McAllen, was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Elee Camargo, 37, of McAllen, an oil field service's entrepreneur, was sentenced to seven years. All three were convicted for their roles with coordinating the transportation of 428 kilograms (944 pounds) of marijuana to the primary target of the investigation, Delfino Bazan.

"This HSI Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, worked in collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and our other law enforcement partners, dealt a major blow to the Delfino Bazan Drug Trafficking Organization as 19 of its members were sentenced," said Special Agent in Charge Janice Ayala, HSI San Antonio. "HSI, in collaboration with the DEA, seized 12,247 kilograms of marijuana, 19 weapons, along with U.S. currency and other personal property purchased with illicit proceeds."

According to court documents, Bazan, 44, of Houston, received shipments of marijuana from various co-conspirators in Houston to sell to others. He was sentenced March 6 to 27 years in prison. It is estimated that over the course of the conspiracy, Bazan was receiving at least 1,000 kilograms of marijuana each month to distribute to others in the spring of 2012. Bazan was also sentenced to 27 years for cocaine trafficking in a case originating out of the Eastern District of Texas; the two sentences will be served concurrently. As part of the plea agreement in that case, he has agreed to a monetary judgment of more than $10 million.

Bazan's common law wife Alejandrina Martinez, 43, of Houston, was sentenced to 30 months for her role in laundering drug proceeds through bank accounts on behalf of Bazan.

Also sentenced March 6 were Sostenes Ferreira-Garcia, 50, Enrique Montalvo, 40, and Jose Felipe Ramon, 33, all of Rio Grande City; and Samuel Espino-Morales, 59, Jorge Luis Martinez-Moreno, 28, and Homero Daniel Gutierrez-Aguilar, 24, all of Camargo, Mexico. They were each sentenced for their respective roles in smuggling marijuana from Mexico into the United States near La Casita for further distribution within the United States. They assisted in smuggling at least 10,000 kilograms of marijuana during the spring of 2013, all of which was intercepted by law enforcement during the course of the investigation. Ferreira-Garcia, who coordinated the smuggling and further distribution, was sentenced to 20 years. Enrique Montalvo scouted for the group and was sentenced to nine years. Load driver Espino-Morales was sentenced to 51 months; Martinez-Moreno and Gutierrez-Aguilar, who assisted with loading and unloading the marijuana, were sentenced, respectively, to 140 and 112 months in prison. Ramon allowed his residence to be used as a stash location and was sentenced to 135 months in prison.

The following eight individuals were all convicted of attempting to transport varying amounts of marijuana at varying times throughout the conspiracy: Ivan Del Jesus Campos-Landa, 31, David Muniz, 54, Jose Luis Lozano, 41, Mario Alberto Martinez, 44, and David Ulloa Correa, 48, all of Rio Grande City; Thomas Garcia, 53, of Garciasville; Edmundo Canales, 23, of Edinburg; and Rosendo Benitez, 45, of McAllen. Campos-Landa was sentenced to 57 months; Muniz, Lozano, Martinez, Correa, Garcia and Canales were ordered to serve 60, 41, 72, 24, 120 and 46 months in prison, respectively. Benitez was sentenced to 87 months.

The OCDETF investigation dubbed "Operation Casanova" was conducted by HSI, DEA, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, and the Starr County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan F. Alanis, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.