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

12/12/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/13/2023 09:20

Money launderer for cartel sent to prison

Press Release

Money launderer for cartel sent to prison

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON - A 40-year-old Mexican citizen has been sentenced for international drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy, operating on behalf of the Gulf Cartel in Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Ezequiel Alanis Espitia pleaded guilty May 17.

Chief U.S. District Judge Randy Crane has now ordered Espitia to serve 324 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by five years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court noted the ongoing drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracies spanned over the course of eight years. The conspiracy involved 39 kilograms of cocaine, six kilograms of fentanyl, two and a half kilograms of heroin and more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. During the investigation, law enforcement seized $610,400 in drug proceeds. The court also heard Espitia was a leader of the criminal activity, maintained stash houses for the purpose of distributing drugs and was directly involved in the importation of controlled substances from Mexico into the United States.

"The Cartel del Golfo, aka the Gulf Cartel, is a brutal and violent Mexican drug trafficking organization that relies on money launderers and drug distributors, like Espitia, to wash its ill-gotten gains and infect local communities with drugs," said Hamdani. "This substantial sentence serves as a warning to those who help launder monies and deliver dangerous drugs, such as fentanyl, that destroy our neighborhoods and kill our kids."

Espitia's associates, including his brother, Ramiro Alanis Espitia, 44, Mexico, was also sentenced today for his role in the conspiracies and received 60 months in prison to be immediately followed by four years supervised release. Espitia's wife, Brenda Natalie Alanis Duran, 39, Houston, and his sister, Maria Isabel Lara Alanis, 55, Mexico, were also convicted and will be sentenced on Dec. 13 and Jan. 17, 2024, respectively.

To date, a total of 16 have been convicted for their roles in the conspiracies and have received sentences between 12 and 81 months.

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

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation along with the Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Houston Police Department.

This Operation, dubbed "Walking Eagle," 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 December 13, 2023
Drug Trafficking