Roma man gets more than 11 years in 15-year-old federal drug case

A U.S. District Judge sentenced a Roma man to more than 11 years in federal prison in connection with federal drug charges from nearly 15 years ago.

Romeo Eduardo Barrera, 43, learned his fate Monday when he stood before U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt during the sentencing phase of his case, according to a news release.

“At the hearing, the court found Barrera’s 14-year run warranted an upward adjustment for obstruction of justice and overruled Barrera’s objections to not receiving credit to reduce his sentencing range for acceptance of responsibility. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hoyt noted that the tragedy of this case is that had he not fled and resolved the matter in 2002 when he was much younger, he would have completed his sentence by now and had many years to spend with his family,” according to a news release from Southern District of Texas U.S. Attorney’s office.

Barrera, who had been living on the run from federal agents for nearly 15 years until a car crash in May landed him back behind bars, pleaded guilty in October to drug possession and conspiracy charges related to an incident in early 2002, according to a news release.

Barrera was involved in a car crash in the Rio Grande Valley and 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, 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 was facing 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 prosecuted the case.

Barrera will remain in custody pending his transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility not yet determined.