Texas Syndicate Gang Members and Associates Sentenced to Prison

August 31, 2011

U.S. Attorneys Office Southern District of Texas on August 30, 2011 released the following:

“McALLEN, Texas – Six Texas Syndicate members and associates have been sentenced to prison for racketeering, violent crimes in aid of racketeering, kidnapping and possession with intent distribute cocaine, United States Attorney Jose Angel Moreno announced today.

At a hearing on Monday, Aug. 29, 2011, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa sentenced the chairman of the Texas Syndicate in the Rio Grande Valley, Jose Ismael Salas, 40 of Edinburg, Texas, to 20 years in federal prison without parole for drug trafficking offenses in violation of the racketeering statute. Salas pleaded guilty on April 2, 2009, admitting to committing two acts of racketeering, namely two separate acts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance – six kilograms of cocaine on Aug. 12, 2004, and 39 kilograms of marijuana on March 28, 2003, intending to further the goals of the gang.

Five other members or associates of the gang were also sentenced yesterday by Judge Hinojosa including Fidel Valle, 45 of Donna, Texas – the source of drug supply to the gang who employed gang members to assist in his drug distribution business. He received 126 months imprisonment for possession with intent to distribute six kilograms of cocaine. On July 28, 2009,Valle pleaded guilty to the federal felony drug charge acknowledging that on Aug. 12, 2004, upon being contacted by Salas, Valle agreed to sell approximately six kilograms (approximately 13 pounds) of cocaine to Salas’s associates. That drug load was found and seized by law enforcement officers during a traffic stop of a Ford pickup seen leaving Valle’s residence in Donna on Aug. 12, 2004.

Romeo Rosales, 41 of Raymondville, Texas – an admitted Texas Syndicate gang member who was convicted of kidnapping Amancio Pinales-Garcia – was sentenced to 151 months imprisonment. Reyes, son-in-law of the kidnapping victim, sought a monetary reward to turn over Pinales-Garcia to unknown subjects in Mexico. Pinales-Garcia was shot several times in the low torso during the struggle and subsequently died in Mexico. Rosales pleaded guilty to kidnapping Pinales-Garcia on March 3, 2009.

Noel De Los Santos, 33, of Donna, Texas was sentenced to 240 months imprisonment for violent crimes in aid of racketeering, that is, for the murder of Crisantos Moran on March 20, 2003. According to trial testimony, Moran had been ordered by the Texas Syndicate to kill a rival gang member who lived near Penitas, Texas. De Los Santos and Jose Armando Garcia, both Texas Syndicate gang members, agreed to accompany Moran to commit the murder. However, Moran failed to carry out the order as given. Instead, De Los Santos and Garcia shot and killed Moran for failing to carry out the order. On Aug. 10, 2010, Garcia was convicted of racketeering and violent crimes in aid of racketeering and was sentenced to life in prison on Jan. 5, 2011.

Cristobal Hernandez, 31, and Arturo Rodriguez, 28, both of Brownsville, Texas, were sentenced to 120 and 240 months imprisonment, respectively, for violent crimes in aid of racketeering arising from the murder of Marcelino Rodriguez in June 2007. After members of the Texas Syndicate obtained a copy of a sealed court document from an employee of a McAllen area law firm which represented Marcelino Rodriguez in a federal case, the murder of Marcelino Rodriguez was approved by the leadership of the Texas Syndicate. Hernandez and Arturo Rodriguez were recruited by Raul Galindo to commit the murder. Galindo shot Marcelino Rodriguez in the back of the head while Arturo Rodriguez set the vehicle on fire with gasoline. On Aug. 10, 2010, Galindo was convicted of violent crimes in aid of racketeering and tampering with a witness, victim or an informant. On Jan. 5, 2011, Galindo was sentenced to life imprisonment.

All six of the defendants sentenced yesterday are in federal custody and will remain in custody pending transfer to Bureau of Prisons facilities to be designated in the near future.

All 13 charged in this case have been convicted and sentenced to prison. Juan Pablo Hinojosa, who was convicted by a federal jury of racketeering and violent crimes in aid of racketeering, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Jan. 5, 2011. On Jan. 28, 2010, Benjamin Piedra pleaded guilty to violent crimes in aid of racketeering and was sentenced to 120 months confinement and three years of supervised release on Feb. 22, 2011. Adan Roberto Ruiz pleaded guilty to criminal information charging him with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana, while Jorge Puga pleaded to a criminal information charging him with possession with intent to distribute 39 kilograms of marijuana. Ruiz and Puga received 52 and 37 months, respectively. Joel Carcano Jr. pleaded guilty providing false statements – admitting he lied to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents when he falsely stated he did not provide a copy of downward departure motion to Texas Syndicate members. This document was used as the basis to order the murder of the government’s informant. On Feb. 22, 2011, Carcano was sentenced to 52 months custody and a three-year-term of supervised release.

The investigation leading to the federal charges and subsequent conviction of these admitted Texas Syndicate gang members was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Robert Wells, Jr. prosecuted the case.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Manuel Ivan Castillo-Estrada Pled Guilty to a Criminal Information Charging Him with Knowingly Concealing and Harboring an Illegal Alien for Profit

August 31, 2011

U.S. Attorneys Office Southern District of Texas on August 30, 2011 released the following:

“Mexican Man Convicted of Harboring Illegal Aliens

McALLEN, Texas – Manuel Ivan Castillo-Estrada, 22, of Mexico, has pleaded guilty today to a criminal information charging him with knowingly concealing and harboring an illegal alien for profit, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

At a hearing before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane today, Castillo-Estrada admitted he was being paid for being in charge of a stash house and taking illegal aliens there for approximately a month.

On Aug. 16, 2011, according the criminal complaint filed in this case, Border Patrol (BP) agents were conducting surveillance on a house in Edinburg, Texas, and saw a white Ford Expedition leave the residence. A Hidalgo County Sheriff’s deputy stopped the Expedition for a traffic violation and identified the driver as Castillo. BP agents responded and determined that Castillo was an illegal alien from Mexico. The agents then obtained consent to search the residence from an individual there and found a total of 23 undocumented aliens lying all over the floor in the residence and hidden in one of the bedrooms and the attic. The allegations in the complaint also alleged that Castillo beat several of the undocumented immigrants with a baseball bat.

At a detention hearing on Aug. 23, 2011, U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos ordered Castillo to remain in detention without bond. He will remain in custody pending his sentencing hearing presently set for Nov. 8, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Crane. Castillo-Estrada faces up to 10 years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conviction.

BP investigated the case with the assistance of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Sully is prosecuting the case.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Roy Christopher West Sentenced by U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts on Murder-for-Hire

August 27, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 26, 2011 released the following:

“Akron Man Sentenced to Life for Ordering Murder-for-Hire

Roy Christopher West, 36, of Akron, Ohio, was sentenced late yesterday on charges of Conspiracy to Use Interstate Commerce Facilities in the Commission of Murder-for-Hire, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced.

U.S. Attorney McQuade was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

West was sentenced by United States District Judge Victoria A. Roberts to life in prison without parole. West was found guilty on April 15, 2011, by a federal jury in Detroit, Michigan following a 10-day trial.

The jury found that West conspired to murder Leonard Jermone Day in retaliation for stealing approximately $100,000 in cash and $250,000 worth of jewelry from Roy West.

During the trial, the jury listened to wiretaps which revealed that, after the theft, West began calling his family and associates, saying that he would give money to anyone who found Day. On December 20, 2005, Detroit Police found Day sitting in his truck after being ambushed by gunfire.

A separate jury found co-defendant Marcus Freeman guilty for his participation in the conspiracy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 20, 2011. Michael Bracey pled guilty to the murder conspiracy on October 25, 2010, and Alvino Cornelius pled guilty to a superseding information that charged him with drug trafficking on October 21, 2010. Bracey and Cornelius are awaiting sentencing. One remaining defendant, Christopher Scott, is scheduled to begin trial on October 17, 2011.

United States Attorney McQuade thanked the Detroit office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Detroit Police Department, the Greater Akron Area HIDTA Initiative, which is a task force led by the Akron offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency for their efforts that lead to this successful prosecution.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth A. Stafford and Michael C. Leibson.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Leader of International Money Laundering Organization Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to Nine Years in Prison

July 12, 2011

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on July 11, 2011 released the following press release:

“JUL 11 – MANHATTAN — John P. Gilbride, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that David Eduardo Helmut Murcia Guzmán, the founder of the Colombian marketing giant D.M.G. Group (“DMG”), was sentenced Friday, July 8, 2011 to nine years in prison for his participation in a scheme to launder millions of dollars’ worth of illicit funds, including narcotics proceeds, through DMG. Murcia Guzmán was sentenced in Manhattan federal court by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley. Judge Pauley previously ordered Guzman to forfeit ten properties located in southern Florida and California, and $7 million.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “Murcia Guzmán wove an intricate web of deception across continents to disguise his dirty drug money and support his lavish lifestyle. But his web has been untangled and his lifestyle dramatically curtailed by this sentence.”

According to the Superseding Indictment to which Murcia Guzmán pled guilty, and statements made in court:

The DMG Organization

David Eduardo Helmut Murcia Guzmán created DMG in 2003 as a vehicle for a multi-level marketing scheme, through which customers could buy pre-paid debit cards. DMG sold these pre-paid debit cards to customers in Latin America, who could use them to purchase electronics and other items at retail stores operated by DMG. By 2008, DMG had approximately 400,000 customers. DMG ceased its operations by January 2009.

The Money Laundering Conspiracy

Murcia Guzmán and five co-defendants — employees and affiliates of DMG –- laundered narcotics proceeds through DMG and DMG’s affiliated companies. They used the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange, an informal value transfer system commonly used to launder illicitly-obtained dollars in the United States, in exchange for pesos taken in for “legitimate” purchases in Colombia.

For example, in the fall of 2007, Murcia Guzmán and co-defendant Margarita Leonor Pabon Castro approached another individual in Colombia and said that they had cash – apparently in U.S. dollars — that they could not deposit into the Colombian banking system. They asked the individual to set up an account in the United States where these funds could be deposited.

Thereafter, the individual opened an account at Merrill Lynch in the United States, under the name “Blackstone International Development” (the “Blackstone Account”). Neither Murcia Guzmán nor Pabon Castro was listed as owners of the Blackstone Account.

In March 2008, Murcia Guzmán and Pabon Castro told the same individual that they had provided $2.2 million worth of Colombian Pesos to co-defendant German Enrique Serrano-Reyes in Colombia, and, in exchange, Serrano-Reyes had caused the nearly $2.2 million to be wired into the Blackstone Account through eighteen separate wire transfers. In May 2008, the U.S. Government seized about $2.2 million from the Blackstone Account pursuant to a court order. When Murcia Guzmán was informed of the seizure of the Blackstone Account, he told the individual who set it up that he should not attempt to retrieve its contents, and should not, under any circumstances inform the authorities of Murcia Guzmán’s or Pabon Castro’s interest in the Blackstone Account.

Co-defendant William Suárez-Suárez headed DMG’s Colombian security and cash transportation operations, including overseeing the delivery of cash to money laundering agents and attempts to pay bribes to Colombian officials. Co-defendant Luis Fernando Cediel Rozo supervised wire transfers and bulk cash transfers of millions of dollars of DMG money out of Colombia through the Black Market Peso Exchange. Co-defendant Santiago Baranchuk-Rueda received black market transfers of DMG money, including transfers overseen by cediel rozo, to U.S. bank and brokerage accounts.

On November 23, 2010, Murcia Guzmán pled guilty to conspiracy to launder the proceeds of narcotics trafficking. Suárez-Suárez, Pabon Castro, Cediel Rozo, Baranchuk-Rueda, and Serrano-Reyes have each previously pled guilty to the same charge. On January 26, 2011, Serrano-Reyes was sentenced to a period of time already served.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Pauley sentenced Murcia Guzmán, 30, of Colombia, to three years of supervised release. Murcia Guzmán was also ordered to pay a $100 special assessment and forfeit $7 million and all right, title, and interest in 10 properties located in Florida and California.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the DEA’s New York Drug Enforcement Task Force — which is comprised of agents and officers of the DEA, the New York City Police Department, and the New York State Police — DEA’s Bogota Country Office, DEA’s Caracas Country Office, DEA’s Caribbean Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and ICE’s Caracas Country Office. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs for their ongoing assistance in the investigation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit, with the assistance of the Asset Forfeiture Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin A. Naftalis, Telemachus P. Kasulis, and Michael D. Lockard are in charge of the prosecution.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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