Heavy sentence for Mission man caught in drug conspiracy

McALLEN — A man involved in a scheme to move meth to Arkansas faced his punishment last week, court records show.

Ruben Garcia Jr. stood before U.S. District Judge Randy Crane last Wednesday for his sentencing hearing in connection with a drug conspiracy case.

Crane sentenced Garcia, of Mission, to a 66-month federal prison sentence during the hearing, records show.

The 49-year-old man was embroiled in a drug conspiracy along with another Mission man, Mario Espinoza-Moreno, 52, who sought to transport meth from the Rio Grande Valley to West Memphis, Arkansas, according to the criminal complaint filed last year against the two men.

The investigation into the men and the purported drug scheme began in April 2017, when a confidential source working with the Drug Enforcement Administration stated he was contacted by a man claiming to be Pedro Gonzalez, asking for help moving about three kilograms of “crystal” methamphetamine to Arkansas, the document states.

After receiving this information, agents with the DEA coordinated with their source for the source to receive the aforementioned meth from Gonzalez on April 6, 2017, the day after they received the information.

“Agents instructed the (confidential source) to advise Gonzalez to transport the (3 kilograms of) crystal methamphetamine to the Stripes gasoline station located at (the 200 block of West Highway 107), La Villa, Texas,” the court records show.

At about noon that day, Gonzalez contacted the DEA’s confidential source and said one of his “associates” would be going in his place, and that person would transport the meth inside a white Ford pickup truck.

About an hour later, agents watched as the aforementioned pickup truck, and another vehicle, a Nissan sports utility vehicle, arrived at the Stripes convenience store in La Villa, the complaint states.

The driver of the pickup truck, later identified as Garcia, exited the vehicle and approached the confidential source.

Garcia was then observed approaching the SUV, where he spoke with the driver, later identified as Moreno-Espinoza.

“Agents observed Moreno-Espinoza then exit the Nissan Xterra and go inside the Stripes gasoline station. Agents observed Garcia go inside the Nissan Xterra by the driver side door and get a plastic bag and subsequently give it to the (confidential source),” the record shows.

The source then gave a predetermined “arrest signal” to DEA agents who then “converged” and arrested the duo as they exited the store.

During an interview with federal agents, Garcia admitted to being instructed by Gonzalez to deliver the meth at the Stripes location, stating he was going to be paid for transporting it to a person he only knew as the “driver,” in La Villa, the complaint states.

“Garcia stated that his associate, whom he only knew as the neighbor, drove the green Nissan Xterra. Garcia stated that his neighbor, (Moreno-Espinoza) was aware that he was transporting crystal methamphetamine because he was going to pay him $1,000 U.S. currency for helping him transport it from Mission to La Villa,” the record shows.

He said in addition to helping him transport the meth, Garcia told agents that Moreno-Espinoza helped him wrap the meth prior to driving it over to the “driver.”

Moreno-Espinoza declined to answer the agents’ questions.

Both men pleaded guilty to their respective federal drug charges in July 2017, and Moreno-Espinoza was sentenced Oct. 4, 2017, records show.

In addition to the 66-month federal prison sentence, Garcia will be required to participate in a federal drug treatment and mental health treatment programs, and be required to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term, according to court notes.

Moreno-Espinoza, a Mexican national, was not given supervised release and will most likely be deported upon completion of his 57-month prison term.