DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration

02/15/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/15/2024 15:28

Logistics Coordinator Sent to Prison for Drug Trafficking

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - A 33-year-old Houston woman has been sentenced for her convictions of possession with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to do so, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

U.S. District Judge Rolando Olvera deliberated for three days before convicting Brenda Banessa Leal March 7, 2023. The bench trial began Feb. 27, 2023, and concluded March 1, 2023.

Judge Olvera has now ordered Leal to serve 120 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted Leal's testimony at trial was not credible and the evidence against her led to her conviction.

During trial, the court heard evidence that since at least 2018, Leal assisted several family members who were part of a drug trafficking organization. She helped transport narcotics, primarily cocaine, from Mexico to Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. The drugs were hidden in the rear differential in tractor trailers.

Several members of the organization reside in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon, Mexico where Leal has lived the majority of her adult life. She also assisted family members in transporting bulk cash money, ammunition and weapons to Mexico.

The court saw evidence of text and WhatsApp messages between co-conspirators, jail call recordings and videos detailing Leal's criminal actions.

The investigation revealed that between February 2021 and June 2021, Leal was the logistics coordinator of the drug trafficking organization. In that role, she coordinated drivers, dealers and cover loads on this side of the border. In June 2021, while Leal and co-conspirators were preparing to unload a tractor truck that contained approximately 33 kilograms of cocaine, the organization got robbed ("ripped") of the cocaine by another drug trafficking organization.

Authorities apprehended that group shortly after stealing the cocaine from Leal.

The defense attempted to convince the judge that Leal did not have knowledge of the cocaine that was hidden in the tractor trailer and was simply a victim of the "rip crew." Judge Olvera did not believe those claims and found Leal guilty as charged.

Leal 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, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice's OCDETF webpage. Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) Alejandra Andrade and former AUSA Ed Rodriguez prosecuted the case.