Feds Shut Down Brownsville Drug and Money Laundering Operation

BROWNSVILLE–An indictment was unsealed today charging several Brownsville residents with running a cocaine and money laundering operation over a two-year period.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, dubbed Operation Stained Glass, leading to the criminal charges and the arrest of the seven defendants today was conducted in Corpus Christi by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the United States Marshals Service (USMS).

During today’s round-up, investigating agents seized approximately $524,000 in U.S. currency and two kilograms of cocaine at a residence on the 500 block of Salvatierra in Brownsville.

The seven Brownsville residents charged are: Arturo Gomez, 31, Magda Zendejas, 28, Reyna Ceballos, 21, Julio Gonzalez, 45, David Alcala, 30, Vanessa Weaver, 28, and Sonia Garcia-Medina, 26. All seven are expected to make their initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Felix Recio in Brownsville tomorrow. The United States will seek the continued detention without bond of all defendants pending further criminal proceedings.

The four-count indictment returned on Feb 23, 2011, by a Corpus Christi grand jury and now unsealed charges five of the six named defendants – Gomez, Zendejas, Ceballos, Gonzalez and  Alcala – with conspiring for a twoyear period beginning in January 2009 to possess with intent to distribute kilogram quantities of cocaine. Based upon the amount of the alleged cocaine involved, the defendants face no less than 10 years and a maximum of life imprisonment if convicted.

Gomez is also charged individually with conspiracy to launder monetary instruments which carries a maximum 20year prison term upon conviction. Gomez is charged in a separate count with smuggling $47,205 in bulk cash. Weaver is also charged in a separate count with smuggling $16,530 in bulk cash. A conviction for bulk cash smuggling carries a maximum fiveyearterm of imprisonment upon conviction. Also included in the indictment is a notice of the government’s intent to seek a money judgment in the amount of $1,000,000 against Gomez alleging that sum constitutes the sum of drug proceeds laundered and therefore forfeitable to the United States.

The seventh person arrested today, Garcia-Medina, is charged separately by criminal complaint with being an alien illegally present in the U.S. after having been previously deported. Garcia-Medina faces up to 20 years imprisonment upon conviction.

–South Texas Tribune, southtexastribune@gmail.com

Read more at http://www.southtexastribune.com

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