One man and two women, all of South Texas, have been ordered to federal prison following their guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The sentencing was announced by Special Agent-in-Charge of DEA’s Houston Division, Joseph M. Arabit and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Efrain Cisneros-Reyes, 37, Mayra Alejandra Cervantes, 27, and Norma Argelia Ramirez, 43, all of McAllen; and Gabriela Martinez, 34, of Mission, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine Jan. 7, 2016. Cisneros-Reyes, Cervantes and Ramirez also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, while Cisneros-Reyes was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, who accepted all the pleas, ordered Cisneros-Reyes to serve a total of 157 months in federal prison. Cervantes received an 81-month sentence, while Ramirez was ordered to serve 90 months imprisonment. In handing down the sentence, Ramos noted the extensiveness of the criminal organization and the fact that 19 funnel bank accounts were used in the money laundering conspiracy. Each were further ordered to serve five years of supervised release following completion of their prison terms.
Martinez is set for sentencing next month.
At the time of his plea, Cisneros-Reyes also agreed to the forfeiture of two firearms – a Cobra FS380, .380 caliber pistol and a Maverick Arms, Model 88, 12-gauge shotgun. Ramirez agreed to the forfeiture of a Wells Fargo bank account in her name.
The investigation identified the four defendants as leaders within this criminal organization. Law enforcement determined that the organization utilized many different methods of transportation to include, but not limited to, concealing cocaine in false compartments located inside passenger vehicles and tractor/trailers. Further, the investigation revealed multiple funnel bank accounts directly linked to members of the organization. These funnel bank accounts have been used to funnel illicit bulk currency from throughout the country to the Rio Grande Valley.
Estimates are that at least 100 kilograms of cocaine were trafficked during the course of the conspiracy and more than $1 million in currency was transported to South Texas.
The three sentenced today will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility in the near future. Martinez remains in custody pending her sentencing hearing.
The case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation dubbed “Operation Green-Eyed Tiger” conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, police departments in Mission and McAllen as well as the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie K. Hampton is prosecuting the case.