ALAMO — An informant’s tip led FBI agents to three suspected Texas Mexican Mafia members who allegedly smuggled more than 3 pounds of heroin Wednesday.
The informant told agents that gang members would attempt to smuggle the black tar heroin inside a watertight compartment of a red-and-white cooler, a criminal complaint states.
Agents learned Daniel Enrique Cantu, a Texas Mexican Mafia member, would receive the heroin.
The informant met with the alleged smugglers Tuesday, the complaint states. Wearing a wire, the informant recorded Fermin Martinez Luna and Salvador Serna Perez saying that they had crossed the Rio Grande with the heroin-filled cooler.
The men told the informant they would hide in the brush on a ranch near the intersection of San Juan Road and Military Highway, south of Alamo.
The men called the informant again Wednesday, asking to be picked up.
FBI agents and local authorities performing surveillance along Military Highway watched as an undercover officer picked up Martinez and Luna in a Mercury Grand Marquis, the complaint states. The men brought the red-and-white cooler, the complaint states.
The undercover officer took the men to H-E-B, 901 E. Expressway 83, Alamo, where Cantu arrived in a navy blue BMW, stepped out and took the cooler from the Grand Marquis, the complaint states.
Authorities then arrested Cantu, Serna and Martinez outside the supermarket.
Agents said the cooler reeked of vinegar — a common ingredient in black tar heroin — and the cooler appeared to have been modified. Regularly found across the Southwest, black tar heroin gets its name from its black, sticky consistency.
The drug is seen less often than marijuana or cocaine in the Rio Grande Valley. One of the largest black tar busts locally came in June 2008, when McAllen police seized 18 pounds from a home on Bluebird Avenue.
All three men arrested Wednesday remain in federal custody to face federal drug charges before a U.S. magistrate in McAllen.
Cantu was the only identified gang member among those arrested. The other men admitted to entering the U.S. illegally, agents said.
The Texas Mexican Mafia got its start in the mid-1980s in San Antonio and has grown to become one of the state’s largest prison gangs. Also known as Mexikanemi, federal authorities say they have weakened the gang through several sweeps in other South Texas cities.
The most recent sweep came Tuesday, when FBI agents announced nine Texas Mexican Mafia arrests in Hondo, about 40 miles west of San Antonio.
Jared Taylor covers courts and general assignments for The Monitor. He can be reached at (956) 683-4439.