McALLEN — A Venezuelan national, who reportedly is the head of a criminal organization and ordered murders in his home country, pleaded guilty to unrelated U.S. federal charges, court records show.
Tirso Antonio Meleán-Castellano pleaded guilty earlier this month to a federal firearm charge in connection with his March arrest in McAllen, according to a complaint filed against the man.
During a re-arraignment hearing before U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa last week, Meleán-Castellano pleaded true to one of two counts of unlawful transport of firearms.
In exchange, government prosecutors agreed to dismiss the second firearms charge at the time of his sentencing.
The complaint, filed March 15, accused the 28-year-old man of being in the U.S. illegally, and subsequently of firearms charges after federal agents discovered two guns — a Pietro Beretta .9mm pistol and a .40 caliber pistol — and nearly 250 rounds of “assorted” ammunition at his apartment in the 400 block of South G Street in McAllen.
Earlier that day, federal authorities arrested Meleán-Castellano outside a steakhouse restaurant in the 2100 block of 10th Street, only blocks away from where he was residing.
According to multiple Venezuelan news reports, Meleán-Castellano and his brother assumed control of a criminal organization, known as Los Meleán, previously headed by their father, Antonio Meleán, who died during an encounter with Venezuelan authorities more than 10 years ago.
According to reports, the criminal organization is allegedly involved in hundreds of murders, theft and theft of vehicles, extortion, contraband and drug trafficking, in the Andean region, including in Colombia and Panama.
According to the website for Venezuela’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Meleán-Castellano is considered one of the most wanted men in the country for his connection with the criminal organization.
For his alleged crimes in his home country, Venezuela requested that Interpol place him on its international alert, specifically on its “Red Notice” alert, “the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today,” according to Interpol’s website.
Meleán-Castellano, who is represented by Jacksonville, Florida-based attorney Jose Debs-Elias, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11, court notes show.
Representing the government is Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Lindemuth.