McALLEN, Texas – A total of 16 Starr County residents are now in custody following the return of two separate and unrelated indictments alleging the distribution of large quantities of meth, cocaine and marijuana, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Among those taken into custody were Rio Grande City residents, Roel Valadez, 31, Jose Diaz, 43, Isidoro Garza, 53, Jeronimo Morin, 34, Tomas Martinez-Talamantes, 30, Noel Avila, 46, Samuel Torres, 33, Hugo Canales, 63, Jose Ortiz, 46, Ignacio Garza, 49, Diego Reyes, 40, Marcos Barrientos, 38, Janella Chavarria, 32; and David Gomez, 22, Mission. Abel Reyes, 33, Mission, turned himself in a short time ago. With the exception of Diaz, who will make his initial appearance in Austin, the remaining defendants are expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Hacker tomorrow at 9 a.m.
A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment under seal Sept. 7, charging Garza, Reyes, Barrientos, Chavarria, Valadez, Vela, Gomez, Garza, Diaz, Ortiz, Canales, Morin, Avila and Torres. It alleges they conspired from July 2020 to September 2021 to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams or more of meth, five kilograms or more of cocaine and 1000 kilograms of marijuana. Some are also charged with substantive counts on varying dates of possession with intent to distribute one or more of the narcotics and maintaining a stash house.
A separate two-count sealed indictment was also returned Sept. 7. It charges Martinez-Talamantes beginning in June of 2020 and continuing until August of 2020 conspired to possess 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. They are also charged with the substantive count of possession of 193 kilograms of methamphetamine.
All face a minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison as well as a possible $10 million maximum fine upon conviction. Those charged in the substantive possession counts could also face additional terms from five to 40 years and/or a maximum of 20-year-term of imprisonment. .
This investigation was an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation IceRiver. OCDETF is the largest anti-crime task force in the country. Its mission is to disrupt and dismantle the most significant drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States through prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency task forces that leverage the authorities and expertise of federal, state and local law enforcement. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation with the assistance of IRS-Criminal Investigations; U.S. Marshals Service; Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office; Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, police departments in Pharr, Edinburg and University of Texas; sheriff’s offices in Brooks, Jim Wells County, Live Oak, Cameron and Hidalgo Counties; Border Patrol; Customs and Border Protection, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers and National Guard.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia Cook Profit and Jongwoo Chung are prosecuting the cases.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.