Six plead guilty in drug conspiracy

McALLEN — Six more defendants accused of playing roles in a large drug conspiracy that involved meth, cocaine and marijuana pleaded guilty to separate charges Tuesday.

The defendants are accused of working with a drug trafficking organization to store, transport and distribute narcotics throughout Texas and beyond.

In a news release sent out in late 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced busting the operation.

“The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation dubbed Operation Yeyo Express, targeted Gulf Cartel infrastructure and transportation cells operating in South Texas and the distribution of multiple drugs throughout the United States and returning proceeds to Mexico,” the release stated.

Eric Alan Torres-Davila, 31, of Edinburg; David Martinez Jr., 43, of Mercedes; Efrain Robledo, 27, of Pharr; and Hector Hernandez-Cardenas, 53, of San Juan, each pleaded guilty to count one of a 10-count indictment.

Specifically, they admitted to conspiring to possess and distribute cocaine, meth and marijuana over the course of three years beginning in February 2013 until about Nov. 1, 2016, according to the partially sealed indictment.

Oleomar “Omar” Montalvo Jr., 39, of Corpus Christi and Eric Mixtli Caceres-Coleman, 29, of Dallas, each pleaded guilty to count five of the indictment, which states they knowingly possessed and conspired to move more than 900 pounds of marijuana. Montalvo and Caceres-Coleman will remain free on bond pending their sentencing in June.

Elizabeth Lopez-Perez, 31, of Edinburg, was also set to plead guilty Tuesday but instead told the court she did not know cocaine was being stored at her residence in Edinburg, causing U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa to not accept the guilty plea she had entered moments before. Her case was rescheduled as it is likely she will move forward with a jury trial.

The six men who admitted their roles in the drug conspiracy joined the eight defendants who pleaded guilty last month.

The eight who pleaded guilty in March are: Guillermo “Don Gio” Morales, 55, of Edinburg; Jesus Remedios-Manqueros, 41, of Dallas; Anthony Ray Sanchez, 20, of Dallas; Amairani “Lizeth” Flores, 24, of Donna; Oscar “Flaco” Tanguma Jr., 31, of Edcouch; Andrew Martinez, 39, of La Feria; Efrain Dimas-Lopez, 47, of Edinburg; and Samuel Jesus Olivo, 45, of Donna, court records show.

The remaining five defendants, including the aforementioned Lopez-Perez, include Norberto Cantu, Elmer Macario-Ramos, 43, of Weslaco; Armando Tanguma 30, of Edcouch; and Heather Segura, 35, of La Feria, court records show.

This group may ultimately take their cases to trial but could opt to plead guilty just like the groups before them.

The government also dismissed two charges related to the indictment for defendant Mario Gonzalez, 45, of Edinburg on Monday, court records show.

Another defendant, Raul Villegas-Villanueva, told the court he was ready for trial during a hearing Tuesday but Hinojosa asked him about a letter he penned addressed to the court asking for a new attorney.

Villegas-Villanueva sent a letter in late March that stated that he wished to move forward without his current lawyer, Adolfo “Al” Alvarez.

But at the hearing Tuesday, Villegas-Villanueva changed his mind again and said that he was resigned to keep Alvarez on as his counsel because he could not afford to pay for another attorney after his family told him Alvarez would not refund him a majority of money already paid to him — somewhere in the neighborhood of $17,000.

Alvarez denied he made such a statement and said maybe his office may have had that conversation with his client’s family — and that he had been paid something in the vicinity of $15,500, and not $17,000 as Villegas-Villanueva had stated.

In an attempt to clarify any issues related to his counsel, Hinojosa assigned a federal public defense attorney to speak to Villegas-Villanueva and sort out any issues he may have before moving forward on his case.

The six defendants who pleaded guilty Tuesday are set for sentencing June 27, when the majority of them could face up to 10 years in prison.

This report was updated to reflect two charges were dismissed against Gonzalez.