McALLEN — An Alamo woman will serve more than three years for her role in a drug conspiracy involving methamphetamine.
San Juanita Garcia, 36, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who determined she was involved in a conspiracy to move meth despite her claim that she didn’t know drugs were being trafficked.
The defendant and her husband Reynaldo Federico Garcia, 34, of Alamo, were arrested along with Amador Salinas-Martinez, 35, of McAllen in connection with an investigation into the trafficking of meth in the Rio Grande Valley that began in June 2017.
The trio was arrested for their roles in the alleged conspiracy in August and September of last year, court records show.
Since then, the defendant’s husband has pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge against him, and was subsequently sentenced in February to 120 months in prison with five years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term, court records show.
Salinas-Martinez, also pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, and was sentenced in March to 70 months in federal prison and no supervised release upon completion, records show.
She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in December, court records show.
The government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts of the indictment filed against her as part of the plea agreement.
The sequence of events
Federal agents began surveillance on the trio beginning in June 2017 when a cellphone number associated with Reynaldo Federico Garcia was tracked.
The complaint states that Reynaldo Federico Garcia discussed the sale of one kilogram of methamphetamine on June 29, 2017, with a reliable confidential human source, or CHS.
According to the complaint, the CHS wanted to buy “another kilogram of methamphetamine but needed to have a female cousin pick it up.” Reynaldo Federico Garcia stated he would “have his helper pick up the (meth)” and bring it to Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s house, where the female cousin can pick it up, the complaint further states.
In a subsequent phone call, Reynaldo Federico Garcia spoke with a man identified as his meth supplier in Mexico, who went by “Gary.”
“(Reynaldo Federico Garcia) told Gary that he would send his helper to Gary to pick up “something” — and then once he had the money the helper would deliver that to Gary, the complaint states.
On that same day, June 29, 2017, Reynaldo Federico Garcia received another phone call from the CHS, who told him the person he was sending, a female cousin, did not want to go to Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s residence, instead she wanted to meet at a Home Depot store in the 400 block of Jackson Road in Pharr, the following day at 10 a.m., the complaint states.
The following day, at about 7 a.m., federal agents began surveillance of Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s residence in the 1400 block of Seminole Valley Drive in Alamo.
About two hours later agents watched as a man, driving a silver hatchback car, arrived at Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s residence.
The man walked into Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s house and then emerged less than 10 minutes later to move his vehicle to the carport.
“The subject opened the rear hatch to the vehicle and could be seen moving between the vehicle and inside the house,” the complaint states.
Agents witnessed the man leave the location in the silver vehicle only to find a second vehicle — a dark in color Audi SUV, driven by Reynaldo Federico Garcia and later identified as belonging to his wife — begin to follow the silver car.
“FBI agents observed the two vehicles traveling in tandem to the Home Depot parking lot on Jackson Road in Pharr, Texas,” the record shows.
The man from the silver hatchback parked, walked up to the SUV driven by Reynaldo Federico Garcia, and got in the vehicle.
Reynaldo Federico Garcia, who was at the same time making phone calls to the CHS, drove around the parking lot for about an hour.
During a conversation with the CHS, Reynaldo Federico Garcia was told the female cousin was inside a purple Dodge Durango, but then said that the cousin’s brother would be picking up the meth at a different location, the complaint states.
“This was done in an attempt to introduce an undercover law enforcement officer to (Reynaldo Federico Garcia),” the complaint states. “At 10:39 a.m. the CHS called (Reynaldo Federico Garcia) and told him the female cousin already left, but that her brother would be able to pick up the narcotics.”
He then called his wife, San Juanita Garcia, and asked her if she wanted to go to breakfast, and she said she did.
Both vehicles, the silver hatchback and Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s Audi SUV, arrived at Reynaldo Federico Garcia’s residence at about 11:05 a.m., only to leave about five minutes later.
“At 11:11 a.m. the CHS called (Reynaldo Federico Garcia) and said a male subject was ready to pick it up,” the complaint states. “(Reynaldo Federico Garcia) told the CHS to tell the male subject to meet at the Stripes convenience store on Raul Longoria in San Juan.”
Shortly thereafter, an undercover agent met with other federal agents who gave the (UC) $4,800 and an additional $100 that Reynaldo Federico Garcia was expecting for the methamphetamine.
Just before noon, Reynaldo Federico Garcia arrived at the Stripes in San Juan after making another stop at his residence in Alamo, and parked next to the UC’s vehicle.
“The UC walked to the Audi and San Juanita Garcia motioned for the UC to get in the rear passenger seat,” the complaint states. “The UC sat in the back seat, and (Reynaldo Federico Garcia) retrieved an Under Armour shoebox from the rear floor and handed it to the UC. The UC asked if it was like the last kilogram and (Reynaldo) replied, ‘Yes.’”
The UC, who confirmed the contents of the shoebox as meth, went to his vehicle, grabbed the $4,900 and handed it to San Juanita Garcia who counted it, the complaint states.
“ Once San Juanita Garcia counted the money she looked at (Reynaldo Federico Garcia) and nodded her head up and down,” records show. “(Reynaldo Federico Garcia) informed UC that he had 6 more kilograms of the same product if the UC wanted more.”
‘… Going to get a break’
During the sentencing hearing Tuesday before Judge Crane, San Juanita Garcia claimed she was not aware that her husband was involved in a drug conspiracy despite her presence on the aforementioned date when she counted the $4,900 given to her by the undercover officer.
Prosecutors for the government pushed back on this claim, stating to the court that it would be nearly impossible for the woman to not know she was participating in a drug conspiracy when she was counting large amounts of cash, but did concede that she probably didn’t know about firearms later recovered from the home the married couple shared.
Crane, noting the 37-month sentence, said San Juanita Garcia was a “minor participant in the conspiracy,” but could have received a much longer sentence, even though she did not have a prior criminal history.
“You’re going to get a break,” Crane told the woman. “It does appear all of this was orchestrated by your husband.”
San Juanita Garcia, who does not have legal status to be in the United States, will be deported at the end of her prison term.