Mexican nationals sentenced in drug conspiracy case

Third man tied to case expected to be sentenced in late March

McALLEN — Last week a pair of Mexican nationals received their punishment in connection with a conspiracy to transport cocaine through a port of entry, court records show.

A federal judge sentenced Delfino Mondragon-Rocha and Leobardo Salazar Aguirre, both of Mexico, to 48- and 36-month prison sentences, respectively, for their roles in a drug trafficking scheme that also involved a Pharr man, according to the indictment filed against the trio.

Mondragon-Rocha, 40, Salazar, 44, and Miguel Angel Del Valle, 52, of Pharr, were named in an indictment that alleged the trio coordinated shipments of cocaine through the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

The Drug Enforcement Administration began an investigation into the trio in early 2018 after learning of the alleged scheme from other contacts that found that they were coordinating cocaine shipments through a local port of entry.

Agents with the DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program received information that Salazar, a Mexican national with legal status living in McAllen, was coordinating shipments of cocaine through the Hidalgo port of entry, according to the complaint filed against the men.

On March 6, the agents learned that a 2005 Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Del Valle was carrying about 14 kilos of cocaine, the record shows.

“Record checks revealed that Del Valle drove the vehicle matching that description from Mexico into the United States earlier that day,” the complaint stated.

On the same day, agents conducted surveillance in an attempt to locate and seize the pickup truck purportedly driven by the Pharr man.

“Shortly thereafter, agents located the Chevy pickup truck parked at an apartment complex located in McAllen, Texas,” the record stated. “Agents were able to take custody of the vehicle containing the cocaine from (Salazar).”

After seizing the vehicle, agents discovered 12 bundles of cocaine from within the vehicle, the court record shows.

“On March 6, 2018, (Salazar) admitted to DEA agents that he had been involved in coordinating the transportation of the cocaine and confirmed he had received the vehicle with the cocaine from Del Valle,” the document stated.

Del Valle, who was originally charged with four different drug-related charges, including attempt/conspiracy, import of narcotics, conspiracy to import narcotics, and distribution of narcotics, originally pleaded not guilty to all charges in September 2018.

But in November of last year, Del Valle changed his mind and agreed to a plea deal with government prosecutors that would have him plead true to the import charge, and in exchange, prosecutors would drop the three other charges at the time of his sentencing.

Salazar, who originally faced the same four federal drug charges as Del Valle, struck his own plea deal Oct. 30, when he pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge, court records show.

Mondragon-Rocha, who hails from Houston but does not have status to remain in the country legally, also pleaded guilty in October, agreeing to plead true to an illegal re-entry and drug conspiracy charge related to the case in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining drug charges, court notes show.

Both of the sentenced men will likely be deported upon completion of their respective prison terms due to their lack of legal standing in the U.S.

Del Valle, who was in court for his sentencing hearing last week but had his hearing rescheduled, is expected to be sentenced March 27, court notes show.