LAREDO, Texas – Four people face up to life in prison on recent drug charges involving meth following the return of several Laredo federal indictments, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Two men face charges for trafficking a large amount of marijuana and ammunition, while four others were allegedly involved in the transportation of illegal aliens.
All were originally charged via criminal complaints and are currently in custody. Three are set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon at 1 p.m. today, while others are scheduled for Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. The Laredo grand jury returned the indictments Oct. 22.
Mexican nationals Nicolas De La Garza Salinas, 50, and Miguel Angel Flores Diaz, 34; and Monica Christine Canales Rodriguez, 52, Dallas, are all charged in separate but similar cases. Each is charged with one count of conspiracy as well as importation of meth. Rodriguez also faces a third count of importing heroin. Two more cases against Mexican national Ramces Chavez-Gomez, 30, and Jose Gonzalo Ojeda, 24, Laredo, allege conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute multiple kilogram quantities of meth and marijuana, respectively. The grand jury returned a fifth indictment against Julio Cesar Vega-Amaral, 42, for smuggling ammunition into the country.
Clarence J. Lee, 60, Ellis L. Boston, 47, and Julie Perez, 33, all of San Antonio, are charged together, while the final indictment charges Sebastian Mosley, 48, Tyler. These four are all charged with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens.
On Sept. 25, Salinas allegedly attempted to entered the United States through the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge in Laredo. The charges allege that during inspection, authorities soon discovered approximately 31.64 kilograms of a white liquid substance that tested positive for meth concealed within the gas tank.
Flores Diaz allegedly entered the United States on that same day, but at the Colombia Solidarity Bridge in Laredo, driving a tractor trailer. Authorities soon discovered anomalies in the cabin during a vehicle scan, according to the charges. The indictment alleges officials recovered 20 bundles of meth, weighing approximately 20.12 kilograms with an estimated value of more than $100,000.
Similarly, a third case alleges Rodriguez entered the United States at the Lincoln-Juarez Port of Entry in Laredo Sept. 28, driving a Toyota Four Runner. There, law enforcement noticed its four tires had anomalies and, upon inspection, found a total of 24 bundles of heroin and meth, weighing approximately 48.82 kilograms and 14.94 kilograms respectively, according to the charges. The drugs are allegedly valued at more than $1.3 million.
According to the indictment against Chavez-Gomez, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, he attempted to drive his SUV through a Laredo checkpoint Oct. 5. Upon arrival, a K-9 alerted to the presence of narcotics, at which time authorities conducted an x-ray scan which revealed a hidden compartment near the rear seats of the vehicle, according to the charges. The compartment allegedly contained 20 bundles of meth that weighed approximately 36.3 kilos with a street value of more than $250,000.
In another separate matter, law enforcement allegedly observed six individuals carrying bundles near the Rio Grande River in Laredo July 18. The charges allege someone was driving a pickup truck towards the river. The driver, believed to be Ojeda, allegedly absconded on foot. The complaint alleges that authorities apprehended him and recovered 480 pounds of marijuana from that truck worth more than $380,000.
The grand jury indicted Vega-Amaral for smuggling ammunition via the Lincoln Juarez Bridge, Sept. 23. Law enforcement conducted an inspection of his vehicle, at which time they allegedly discovered approximately 4,300 rounds of various caliber ammunition. The charges allege it was concealed inside a speaker box and under a spare tire in the trunk of the vehicle.
Lee, Boston and Perez are charged together with conspiracy to transport illegal aliens. The criminal complaint alleges Lee attempted to drive a commercial truck through a Texas checkpoint west of Bruni. During inspection, a K-9 allegedly alerted to the presence of persons in the cargo area of the truck. An x-ray scan revealed the silhouettes of humans in the rear of the truck, according to the charges. Upon further inspection, authorities allegedly discovered a compartment hidden by a “false wall” with a small door that some utility appliances were blocking. The charges allege they eventually found 24 Mexican citizens in that compartment which had a temperature of 94 degrees. Several of those inside were allegedly sweating profusely and gasping for air. Boston and Perez had allegedly recruited Lee and had driven ahead of him through the checkpoint, acting as a scout vehicle for him.
Finally, Mosley allegedly conspired to transport illegal aliens. On Sept. 27, he attempted to cross a checkpoint driving his tractor that was towing a refrigerated trailer, according the complaint against him. During inspection, authorities allegedly noticed that two different temperature settings were displayed. Further inspection revealed he had 42 undocumented aliens inside the trailer, according to the charges.
Salinas, Diaz, Rodriguez, Chavez-Gomez all face up to life in prison if convicted as well as a maximum $10 million fine. Ojeda’s maximum sentence, upon conviction, carries a potential 40 years of imprisonment and a $5 million fine, while the remaining four could serve up to 10 years and pay up to $250,000.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection conducted the investigations of Salinas, Diaz and Rodriguez, while the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with Border Patrol (BP) worked on the Chavez-Gomez and Ojeda matters. ICE also investigated the cases against the remaining four individuals with the assistance of BP.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon Scott Bowling, Brian Bajew, Jennifer Day, Paul A. Harrison and Yoona Lim are prosecuting the cases.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.