Civil forfeiture case tied to alleged drug trafficking organization delayed

The civil case of the alleged leader of a drug trafficking organization based in Rio Grande City was placed on hold Friday while a criminal case against him moves forward.

The government and the defense for Jose Luis Garcia filed a joint motion to stay the civil case for 90 days which on Friday was signed by U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez.

The case was filed in an attempt by the government to seize $210,000 that federal agents discovered on Garcia’s property during a search on Aug. 30. The government alleges the money was used for drug trafficking purposes.

During the search, agents found multiple weapons and vacuum-sealed bundles of money, according to the complaint filed in federal court.

Agents also seized a money counter, a bag containing various denomination currency bands, a portable Hytera digital radio, and a radio frequency signal jammer.

In filing the request to delay the civil proceedings, the government argued that “civil discovery in this case will adversely affect its ability to conduct the related criminal investigation,” referring to a separate case in which Garcia was charged with federal destruction of property charges.

Those criminal charges stem from allegations that Garcia, whom the government identified as the head of a drug-trafficking organization, ordered the destruction of surveillance cameras, according to court records.

On Aug. 31, 2019, agents allegedly checked on two pole cameras and saw that the square protective boxes for the cameras each had a bullet hole in them, indicating to the agents that the cameras had been shot and were now inoperable.

The DEA seized cellphones belonging to Garcia and another individual, Daniel Sepulveda, whom the government alleged is a member of the Garcia drug trafficking organization.

“The analysis of both Daniel Sepulveda’s and Jose Luis Garcia’s phones also revealed that Jose Luis Garcia ordered Daniel Sepulveda to destroy Border Patrol cameras located in the Midway Road area in Rio Grande City, Texas,” the complaint states. “Jose Luis Garcia tells Daniel Sepulveda that it has gone too far and orders Daniel Sepulveda to take out the cameras.”

Garcia, 42, is the father of Jose Luis Garcia Jr. who in November was acquitted of the murder of Rio Grande City teenager Chayse Olivarez.

The older Garcia was arrested on the criminal charges on March 27 and, on Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Scott Hacker, ordered Garcia held without bond while he awaits trial.

The civil case is stayed until July 9 and the parties are ordered to update the court on the status of the case by July 10.