He had been living on the run from federal agents for more than 15 years — but a car crash in May landed him back behind bars.
Monday, 15 years after Romeo Eduardo Barrera, 42, last appeared in a federal courtroom, he pleaded guilty to drug possession and conspiracy charges related to an incident in early 2002, according to a news release.
Barrera, who was involved in a car crash in the Rio Grande Valley, was arrested May 26 by local authorities after they noticed he had an arrest warrant issued in early 2003 for failure to appear for a scheduled pre-trial hearing related to a more than decades-old drug investigation.
Federal agents in Houston arrested Barrera, then 27 years old, along with several others after he was found among a group of people who had in their possession more than 2,500 pounds of marijuana, the release states.
At the time, authorities identified several men from the Rio Grande Valley who were involved in drug trafficking at a Houston-area Holiday Inn Express Hotel, and at a residence in an area just southwest of Houston.
“Law enforcement conducted surveillance during which time they observed Barrera arrive at the hotel and eventually leave with two others. Surveillance of that vehicle ultimately led investigating officers to a residence on Northfield in Houston,” the release from the U.S. Attorney’s office said. “There, investigating agents watched Barrera and seven other defendants entering and exiting the residence, using trash cans to remove large bales of marijuana and load them into a van parked nearby.”
Law enforcement officers approached Barrera who fled the area. He was apprehended soon after, the release states.
In all, authorities found more than 2,500 pounds of marijuana, 30 used and new duffle bags, two digital scales, wrapping materials, calculators, drug ledgers and three firearms.
Soon after his arrest in Sept. 2002 a grand jury indicted Barrera on two drug charges, conspiring to possess and possession with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; he was eventually released on bond Oct. 17, court records show.
Months later, in early 2003, U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt issued a warrant for the Roma man after he failed to appear for a pre-trial hearing, court notes show.
After his arrest in May, Barrera was transferred from federal custody in McAllen to Houston, the release states.
Barrera, after entering his pleas Monday, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 8, 2018, where he faces between 10 years and life in prison in connection with the marijuana charges, the release states.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Houston Police department and the FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy G. Herrera is prosecuting the case.