Ex-RGC cop gets 14 years in smuggling case tied to cartel

A former Rio Grande City police officer will serve 14 years for his role in moving narcotics for a drug trafficking organization, court records show.

U.S. District Judge John D. Rainey on Wednesday sentenced Ramon “Ramey” De La Cruz Jr. to a 168-month prison term related to the former officer’s role in moving roughly 600 pounds of marijuana for the Beltran drug trafficking organization.

During a six-hour sentencing hearing, the court heard additional testimony from government witnesses regarding the depths of corruption De La Cruz reached in his support of the Rio Grande City-based organization.

Witnesses testified De La Cruz escorted loads of marijuana through Starr County while on duty. He also assisted in the theft of marijuana loads from other traffickers by producing fictitious police reports of law enforcement interdictions that never took place and assisted in the theft of drug proceeds with mock law enforcement takedowns, the release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Southern District of Texas read.

The court also heard how De La Cruz provided the organization with a stolen law enforcement radio and a Starr County seal embosser and disposed of weapons taken from the Beltran ranch previously used in other violent felonies. De La Cruz was paid for his services with racehorses, drugs and drug proceeds.

De La Cruz’s involvement with the drug trafficking organization was discovered by way of an investigation led by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agents working in the Victoria and Corpus Christi area into the Beltran drug trafficking organization, the complaint filed against De La Cruz read.

The investigation was initiated after a traffic stop Jan. 21, 2013, in Victoria County.

As a result of the traffic stop, Victoria County sheriff’s seized roughly 600 pounds of marijuana found inside a secret compartment inside a “Sooner” horse trailer.

The trailer was carrying two racehorses, which along with the truck, trailer and marijuana, were seized.

“This arrest and seizure was the predicate event to a lengthy joint investigation undertaken with the intent of discovering the identification of those responsible for the importation and smuggling of that 600 pound load of marijuana into and throughout the United States,” the court document read.

The investigation revealed that the Beltran drug trafficking organization, using ranches along Highway 755, and family members living in Rio Grande City, was the supplier of the marijuana seized in January 2013.

“It was also discovered that the Beltran DTO owns and utilizes ranches located near highway 755 and La Sagunada Road in Rio Grande City, as well as racehorses and the sport of horse racing to facilitate their drug smuggling activities and launder the proceeds from this illicit activity,” the complaint read.

In addition to using the “Sooner” trailer, the Beltran organization, between early 2008, to late 2013, used other trailers and “other drivers and co-conspirators,” to smuggle thousands of pounds of marijuana from ranches in the Rio Grande Valley to areas near Dallas, Houston, Conroe, Elgin, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In January 2016, five members of the Beltran organization were indicted in the Southern District of Texas, in connection with federal drug charges. This indictment led to the arrests of four people, which resulted in two convictions.

The 39-year-old Rio Grande City man, and now disgraced law enforcement officer, will be required to serve five years of supervised release upon completion of the 14-year prison term.

“The court noted, De La Cruz had not only participated in the conspiracy but also used his service-issued firearm and issued threats of violence in the commission of drug smuggling activities and assumed a leadership role in the organization,” the release read.

“Today is a sad day for your family and a sad day for law enforcement,” Rainey said during the hearing.

The court also noted De La Cruz has a debt to pay society given his abuse of trust that was placed in him by the people in his community.

The six-year investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of 23 persons, the seizure and forfeiture of an American Quarter horse racing quarter horse, Black Patriot and three horse ranches, the release read.