CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Southeast Texas teen was sentenced Tuesday to 19 years in federal prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids and discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Corpus Christi, Texas, conducted this investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and the Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD).
Moises Alvarado, 19, pleaded guilty to the charges May 16, 2018. On Aug. 21, Alvarado was sentenced to 108 months for the synthetic cannabinoid offense, as well as a 120-month consecutive term for discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Following his prison term, Alvarado must also serve three years of supervised release.
On Nov. 15, 2017, CCPD officers responded to a drive-by shooting in the 400 block of Breckenridge in Corpus Christi. Upon arrival, officers discovered that gunfire had struck a woman and child inside the residence. At the scene, officers recovered a total of 47 shell casings from two different caliber assault rifles.
Two days later, CCPD responded to an accidental shooting that occurred in the 5800 block of Weber Road in Corpus Christi. At that time, they discovered that Alvarado had been shot and that Librado Esquivel, 24, and Henrey Ayala III, 26, both of Corpus Christi, dropped him off at a local urgent care center.
As part of this investigation, HSI Corpus Christi, ATF, and CCPD’s SWAT Team executed search warrants at area residences on Dec. 7, 2017. At that time, law enforcement arrested Esquivel on a criminal complaint and seized several firearms, multiple rounds of ammunition, firearm parts and ammunition magazines, U.S. currency and multiple packages of synthetic cannabinoids. Ayala was arrested on a criminal complaint the following week.
As a result of this federal investigation, agents determined Esquivel was a large supplier and distributor of synthetic cannabinoids in the area and was owed a debt related to his drug trafficking. Ayala and Alvarado agreed to commit the shooting and were promised a quantity of synthetic cannabinoids among other things as payment.
Ayala and Esquivel also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute synthetic cannabinoids and discharging a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking offense and are set for sentencing on Sept. 17.
Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that mimic the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. These chemical compounds can be applied to carrier mediums such as plant material and ingested using rolling papers, pipes, vaporizers or otherwise taken orally. Synthetic cannabinoids are usually sold in small foil or plastic bags containing dried leaves (resembling potpourri) and is marketed as incense that can be smoked. It is commonly sold and known on the street as synthetic marijuana, fake weed, legal and by its popular brand names such as Spice, K2, Kush, Klimaxx and many others.
Alvarado remains in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future. Ayala and Esquivel also remain in federal custody.