BROWNSVILLE–Seven Lower Rio Grande Valley residents arrested in a drug trafficking and money laundering case made their initial appearance in federal court and a judge held them without bond because they were a flight risk.
During the roundup, authorities seized more than $520,000 in currency and two kilograms of cocaine from a residence on the 500 block of Salvatierra in Brownsville.
Investigators identified Arturo Gomez, 31, of Brownsville, a local auto glass shop owner, as the person who was in charge of the operation that sold more than five kilograms of cocaine over a two-year period.
They also said in court he laundered money that included sending about from Atlanta, Georgia to Mexico and smuggled about $47,000 of undeclared money last March to Mexico.
Federal officials also filed an intent to seek money judgment in the amount of $1 million against Gomez, saying the sum represents drug proceeds laundered and is forfeitable to the United States.
If convicted on all of the charges, Gomez faces from 35 years to life in federal prison.
Magda Zendejas, 28, Reyna Ceballos, 21, Julio Gonzalez, 45, and David Alcala, 30 were charged with drug trafficking charges, too. If convicted, they face 10 years to life in federal prison.
Pre-trial services said Zendejas and Ceballos, who are both citizens of the United States, lived and worked in Brownsville. Ceballos worked as a physical therapist assistant, but they were actively involved with this operation.
Testimony also showed Gonzalez was a resident alien living in Brownsville and he worked as a self-employed construction worker.
Meanwhile, Alcala was in the United States illegally and had no legal status. He was unemployed, too.
Investigators said Ceballos was the daughter of Gonzalez and the two were arrested in 2009 in Corpus Christi for trafficking three kilograms of cocaine, but those charges were dismissed for insufficient evidence.
Vanessa Weaver, 28, of San Benito, who is married to a man from Mexico, was charged with smuggling about $16,000 in cash from the Rio Grande Valley to Mexico in October of 2009. If convicted, she faces up to five years in federal prison.
Sonya Garcia-Medina 26, was charged with illegally living in the United States after being deported in the past. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Federal Judge Felix Recio decide all seven defendants might flee so they were held without bond. They will appear in court on Monday for a bond detention hearing at 1:30 pm.
He also announced because this case was indicted out of Corpus Christi, the defendants would be go to the Coastal Bend, if they cannot make bail. This case will be tried in Corpus Christi.
–South Texas Tribune, firstname.lastname@example.org
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