United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas

02/20/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/20/2024 11:07

Leader of drug trafficking organization imprisoned for international cocaine distribution scheme

Press Release

Leader of drug trafficking organization imprisoned for international cocaine distribution scheme

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON - A 44-year-old local man has been sentenced for his involvement in an ongoing cocaine distribution scheme that spanned more than nine years, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Francisco Rene Luna pleaded guilty April 11, 2022.

U.S. District Andrew S. Hanen has now ordered Luna to serve 216 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court found Luna to be a leader and organizer of the drug trafficking conspiracy who maintained three locations in Houston he used to stash drugs and drug proceeds. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Luna was directly involved in the importation of the drugs.

"The Gulf Cartel is one of the most violent and brutal drug trafficking organizations, posing a threat to the citizens of both the United States and Mexico," said Hamdani. "Luna, a trusted associate of this criminal enterprise, participated in the importation of thousands of kilograms of dangerous drugs into our country for sale in our communities. Today's sentence reflects our commitment to dismantling destructive drug trafficking organizations, wherever they are."

Luna admitted he was a leader of a drug trafficking organization while residing in Houston. His role was to oversee the receipt of cocaine smuggled in from in vehicles on a monthly basis during the course of the eight-year conspiracy. The Gulf Cartel supplied the cocaine.

The drugs were eventually further distributed to others across the United States.

In December 2015, law enforcement seized 176 kilograms of cocaine, two kilograms of meth and $3.5 million in drug proceeds after executing search warrants at stash houses in Houston the organization controlled.

Luna was a fugitive for four years until his arrest in Monterrey, Mexico, in June 2019 as part of a joint Mexican and American law enforcement operation. He was subsequently removed from Mexico and transported to Houston for prosecution.

While he was a fugitive, Luna continued to run his drug operations from Mexico.

To date, 15 have been convicted in relation to the conspiracy.

Luna will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Houston Police Department conducted the investigation.

This Operation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Strike Force Initiative, which provides for the establishment of permanent multi-agency task force teams that work side-by-side in the same location. This co-located model enables agents from different agencies to collaborate on intelligence-driven, multi-jurisdictional operations to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations.

The specific mission of the Houston Strike Force is to disrupt and dismantle the drug trafficking organizations that designated Consolidated Priority Organization or Regional Priority Organization Targets head with their affiliates and that impact Houston and south Texas.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Casey N. MacDonald and Anibal J. Alaniz prosecuted the case.

Updated February 20, 2024
Drug Trafficking