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Laredo, Texas

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Men Indicted for Marijuana Felony Charges During Operation Ranch Road 13

Courtesy Yanira Deleon,

 (Laredo, Texas)-The District Attorney’s Office reports the indictment of several men associated with a drug trafficking organization responsible for transporting marijuana from South Texas to Houston.

In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Border Patrol initiated an investigation targeting a significant Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) responsible for transporting marijuana from South Texas to Houston. During Operation “Ranch Road 13”, it was discovered that two members of the DTO, Miguel Angel Mendoza, of Zapata, Texas and Eliberto “Blackie” Vela, of Oilton, Texas were responsible for planning, organizing, supervising, coordinating and directing the transport of approximately three tons of marijuana. Mendoza and Vela arranged for other members of the drug trafficking organization to transport marijuana through certain Webb County, Texas area ranches in order to navigate around and avoid Border Patrol checkpoints.

It is alleged that between August 28, 2014 to October 23, 2014, Mendoza and Vela along with Oscar Ivan Avila, Luis Gerardo Retana-Escobedo, Edgar Aguilera-Espinoza and Egladimer Aguilera-Pineda, carefully transported the marijuana using several vehicles. All members communicated with each other through cell phones and other means of communication to provide descriptions of the ranches, directions, routes, entry gates, gate locks and other information to execute the transport of the marijuana.

During the course of the investigation, DEA and Border Patrol made three seizures totaling over 6,000 pounds (2,846 kilos) of marijuana from members of the organization.

On September 27, 2017, Mendoza, Avila, Escobedo, Espinoza and Pineda were indicted for possession of marijuana over 2,000 pounds, a first-degree felony in the State of Texas. All six members, including Vela, were subsequently indicted for conspiracy to possess marijuana, a second-degree felony. Additionally, the 406th grand jury also returned a separate indictment for Vela with unlawful possession of a firearm, a third degree felony.

This criminal investigation developed into a multi-agency task force. In addition to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Border Patrol, the Webb County District Attorney’s Office and the Texas Border Prosecution Unit participated in the investigation.

To date, two indictments charging six subjects with felony charges are presently scheduled for trial in the 406th District Court. Both Mendoza and Vela were arraigned this morning.

This operation continues.

Assistant District Attorney Jack Frels is prosecuting the case for the State. 

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