01/20/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/20/2023 12:35
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas sentenced two La Quarenta gang members to prison Jan. 19. The pair ran a large-scale drug trafficking operation in Southeast Texas.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Corpus Christi and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted the investigation with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations and the Corpus Christi Police Department's Gang Unit.
U.S. District Judge David S. Morales sentenced Ricky Reyna, a 36-year-old Corpus Christi resident, to 25 years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine. Reyna pleaded guilty to the charges Oct. 20, 2021.
Jayden Wandell Coleman, a 20-year-old resident of Corpus Christi, was sentenced April 20, 2022, to 121 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release for his role in the drug trafficking operation. Coleman pleaded guilty to the charges Jan. 27, 2022.
A third gang member involved in the drug trafficking conspiracy, Fernando Martinez, a 44-year-old Corpus Christi resident, pleaded guilty to his role Nov. 23, 2021. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 15.
Reyna, Coleman and Martinez are documented La Quarenta gang members.
At the hearing, the court heard evidence that Reyna and his co-conspirators ran a 24/7 narcotics storefront that sold heroin, meth, cocaine, crack cocaine and synthetic marijuana.
The investigation began in September 2020. It revealed the narcotics trafficking organization used a Corpus Christi residence on Cortez Street to distribute meth, heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana. Authorities observed Reyna, Martinez and Coleman directing people to the drug stash house and entering and exiting at various times. The conspiracy spanned from Sept. 6, 2020, to Aug. 26, 2021.
Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement officials watched a large number of people approach and enter the residence, stay for a few minutes, and then exit the area. During nearby traffic stops, officers seized narcotics originating from the stash house.
Authorities executed search warrants at four residences and a storage yard in August 2021. They ultimately found over five kilograms of cocaine, four kilograms of meth, two kilograms of heroin, 13 kilograms of marijuana and nearly 200 grams of crack. They also discovered more than $100,000, digital scales, a drug ledger, and loaded firearms and ammunition.
The investigation further revealed that the men communicated about buying and selling narcotics throughout the conspiracy.
"Today's sentence sends a strong message that our office will relentlessly work toward dismantling and disrupting local street gangs such as La Quarenta," said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. "Criminal activity in our community is all too often fueled by drug traffickers, particularly those affiliated with these such groups."
"The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would like to thank the U.S. Attorney's Office, Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Corpus Christi Police Department's Gang Unit and Homeland Security Investigations for their continued partnership and commitment to combating violent crime," said Special Agent in Fred Milanowski. "As a result of our joint efforts, members of this criminal organization will no longer threaten our communities with their brazen acts of illegal activity."
Reyna will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marck prosecuted the case.
For more news and information on HSI's efforts to aggressively investigate transnational gangs and narcotics trafficking in Southeast Texas, follow us on Twitter @HSIHouston.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI's workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI's international presence represents DHS's largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.