McALLEN — The last two defendants connected to a drug conspiracy case were sentenced to prison terms earlier this week, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Carlos Alberto Garza and Salomon Rivera each to 52 months in federal prison for their roles in an alleged conspiracy to smuggle drugs from the Rio Grande Valley to Florida in June 2017, court notes show.
The two were part of a three-person indictment filed September 2017 on drug conspiracy and distribution charges as part of an undercover investigation.
On June 19, 2017, Drug Enforcement Administration agents introduced an undercover agent to a drug trafficking organization that was looking to smuggle cocaine from the Valley to Florida using a tractor-trailer.
According to the complaint, the undercover agent received a call three days later from an associate of the drug trafficking organization informing they were ready to deliver the cocaine to the agent.
The undercover agent was instructed to meet in the parking lot of a sporting goods store in McAllen. Once at the parking lot, the undercover agent parked next to a pickup truck belonging to an unidentified man later determined to be Rivera.
The man, after grabbing a bin from the bed of the pickup truck, walked over to the undercover agent’s vehicle and handed him the plastic bin.
Subsequently, the undercover agent left the location and convened with DEA agents who opened the bin and found 35 cellophane-wrapped bundles which were later determined to be bricks of cocaine.
On June 23, the undercover agent was contacted by drug cartel associates and ordered to transport the cocaine to Miami, Florida.
Three days later, the undercover agent was given the number to Juan Perez-Estrada.
Perez-Estrada asked the undercover agent if he could transport the cocaine to Tampa, Florida.
On June 29, Perez-Estrada told the undercover agent that he wanted to partially pay the transportation fees associated with smuggling the cocaine to Florida.
That same day, Perez-Estrada met with the undercover agent at a hotel in Pharr where he handed over $12,000 in cash.
“Perez-Estrada advised the (undercover agent) that he owed him/her an additional $39,000 once the cocaine was delivered to Tampa, Florida,” the complaint stated. “(The undercover agent) advised Perez-Estrada that the cocaine will be delivered on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.”
On the aforementioned date, Perez-Estrada informed the (undercover agent) that he was ready to deliver the rest of the transportation fees.
Because the undercover agent was unavailable, he told Perez-Estrada that another person would be meeting him and picking up the rest of the cash.
Subsequently, a second undercover agent contacted Perez-Estrada and made arrangements to pick up the rest of the transportation fees at the hotel in Pharr.
On July 5, 2017, the second undercover agent met with Perez-Estrada, and handed the agent a shopping bag, stating it was $25,000 in cash, and that the rest was in his vehicle in the parking lot, and handed the remaining $14,000 to the undercover agent.
“(The second undercover agent) informed Perez-Estrada that arrangements were already being made in Florida,” the complaint stated.
Three months later, Rivera, Perez-Estrada and a third man, Garza, were indicted in the drug conspiracy.
Perez-Estrada, who along with Rivera and Garza pleaded guilty to various federal drug charges in December 2017, was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison on Feb. 27, 2018, court records show.
Garza and Perez-Estrada did not receive supervised release terms as part of their punishment, as they do not have legal authority to remain in the country and will likely be deported upon completion of their respective prison terms.
Rivera, 50, of Rio Grande City will serve an additional three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term, court records show.