DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration

06/07/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/08/2023 13:00

Several Traffickers Sentenced for Smuggling Meth for Cartel

LAREDO, Texas - Four U.S. citizens and one Mexican national have been sent to prison following their convictions for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute meth associated with the Michoacan drug cartel, announced Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Gerardo Martinez, 65, pleaded guilty March 9. Maria Valdez, 30, Rodrigo Sandoval, 31, both of Laredo, pleaded guilty Sept. 13, 2022, as did Jose Alfredo Cruz-Salas, 37, of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Karina Garcia, 27, Laredo, pleaded guilty Oct. 4, 2022. All admitted to conspiracy to transport a total of approximately 75 kilograms of meth into the United States from Mexico.

Today, U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo handed Martinez a 240-month term of imprisonment, while Sandoval, Garcia, and Cruz-Salas received 60, 36, and 72 months, respectively. Valdez received 188 months yesterday.

At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence that described how defendant Valdez was transporting meth in a vehicle while her five-month-old son was in an improperly-fastened infant car seat. The court admonished Valdez for putting her son at risk in such a way and costing herself the opportunity to watch him grow up.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Marmolejo noted that high-purity Mexican meth was a dangerous and disfiguring drug wreaking havoc on the community. Not a U.S. citizen, Cruz-Salas is expected to face removal proceedings upon the completion of his sentence.

"Martinez was hiding in plain sight, maintaining a front as a taxi driver while secretly doing the bidding of the Michoacan cartel on the streets of Laredo," said Hamdani. "My late father was a taxi driver and the actions of Martinez simply offend me. He trafficked in pure meth and recruited multiple drivers. The seized drugs could have ruined countless lives. Today's sentencings underscore the scope of the threat transnational drug cartels pose and our efforts to combat them."

The investigation revealed a complex conspiracy which began Feb. 1, 2017, and continued through Sept. 29, 2018. Martinez assisted drug traffickers in Mexico by finding and recruiting drivers willing to transport large quantities of high-purity meth through Laredo and further into the United States.

Martinez maintained a front as an independent taxi driver while working on behalf of the Michoacan cartel. He admitted to coordinating the distribution of meth through Laredo on five separate occasions.

Sandoval, Cruz-Salas, Valdez, and Garcia each previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to deliver and transport meth through Laredo while working for Martinez.

All but Karina Garcia will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future. Karina Garcia was permitted to self-surrender at a later date.

The Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Operation Codigo Siete with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Laredo Police Department and Webb County Sheriff's Office. 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. Attorney Francisco J. Rodriguez is prosecuting the case.