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February 27, 2019Victoria, TX, United StatesNarcotics

South Texas father, son plead guilty to using racehorse business to conceal transnational drug trafficking organization

VICTORIA, Texas — A South Texas man and his son pleaded guilty Monday to using a racehorse business to conceal a transnational drug trafficking organization with ties to some of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels.

This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Texas Attorney General’s Office and the Victoria County Sheriff’s Office.

Raul Beltran Jr., 50, and his son Edward Beltran, 24, both of Rio Grande City, Texas, pleaded guilty Feb. 25 to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana). Beltran and his son Edward each face up to life in federal prison and a maximum fine of $10 million. Their sentencing is scheduled for June 3.

This investigation began Jan. 21, 2013, after a Victoria County Sheriff’s Office deputy interdicted about 600 pounds of marijuana concealed in a horse trailer. That event prompted a multiple-agency, multi-jurisdictional investigation that uncovered a transnational drug trafficking organization that used a horseracing business to facilitate drug smuggling and to launder illicit proceeds. The Beltrans used their horse ranches in Rio Grande City to receive, repackage and conceal thousands of kilograms of marijuana in horse trailers, flat-bed trailers and tractor trailers to distribute the drugs throughout the rest of the country.

This criminal organization also utilized violence, intimidation, bribery and public corruption to facilitate and perpetuate their illicit activities for nearly a decade with virtual impunity. The investigation demonstrated the organization’s dealings with ranking members of the Gulf and Zeta Cartels, Starr County Chicano Brotherhood, as well as involving multiple corrupt sworn peace officers assigned in the Rio Grande Valley.

A total of 22 people have now been convicted as a result of this investigation, including a former Starr County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Authorities have also seized three horse ranches, an American Quarter Horse race stallion named Jet Black Patriot and his breeding proceeds and awards.

Both Beltran and his son remain out on bond pending their sentencing hearing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patti Hubert Booth, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.

Updated: 02/28/2019