McALLEN — A Mission man will serve more than seven years in prison after he tipped off federal authorities to his role in a cocaine trafficking operation.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Russel De La Fuente on Tuesday to 87 months in federal prison for his role in a drug trafficking operation that moved cocaine from the Rio Grande Valley up north, according to court records.
The man’s attorney, Terry Canales of Edinburg, characterized the sentence for his client as “tough,” but noted the 87-month sentence is less than half of the more than 180 months in prison he was facing on two federal drug charges.
In February, De La Fuente pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, in exchange federal prosecutors dismissed the second count, sell, distribute or dispense a controlled substance, court records show.
De La Fuente, who was arrested in August 2016, and placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals, will serve a “little more than five years” based on time already served, Canales said. He will also be required to participate in a drug aftercare program, with an additional four years of supervised release, court records show.
On Aug. 31, 2015, McAllen Drug Enforcement Administration agents received a call at the McAllen District office from an anonymous caller, later identified as De La Fuente,
The 27-year-old man told agents he had information regarding a large shipment of cocaine scheduled to leave the Rio Grande Valley and was providing the information because he feared for his family, and that of his brother, who he claimed owed a debt to unknown people in Mexico and was being forced to facilitate the smuggling and transportation of cocaine shipments in order pay the debt, the complaint states.
The following day, De La Fuente again called DEA officials and gave them information about a tractor trailer carrying a shipment of cocaine would be leaving the Mission/Palmview area headed to San Antonio. Less than two days later on Sept. 3, at about 4:30 a.m. at the Falfurrias checkpoint, Border Patrol agents came across the trailer bearing the license plate number relayed to them by De La Fuente.
About 132 kilos of cocaine were found concealed in the shipment of chickpeas. The DEA was able to match De La Fuente’s fingerprints to those found on the silver foil pouches containing cocaine, the complaints states.
De La Fuente later admitted purchasing the silver foil pouches just days before the seizure, and how he had become involved in the operation. He also admitted to agents he helped with three separate cargo loads, including the one containing cocaine that agents seized on Sept. 8, 2015, the complaint states.
Agents later learned through the course of their interview with De La Fuente that the Mission man reached out to DEA agents in August in order to help an accomplice conceal the fact that a portion of the shipment destined for San Antonio was stolen in Reynosa, Mexico.
The accomplice ordered De La Fuente to report the shipment of cocaine to law enforcement in order to have it seized and prevent it from reaching its destination.
“… (The accomplice) was worried that the owners of the cocaine shipment would discover that some of the cocaine was missing from the shipment it was delivered,” the criminal complaint states.