Drug traffickers sent to prison for transporting narcotics in car batteries

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

LAREDO, Texas – Five members of a drug trafficking organization have received significant sentences their convictions of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute meth and heroin, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.

Felipe De Jesus Garcia, 31, Laredo, pleaded guilty Feb. 3, while Manuel Orozco-Ambriz, 48, also of Laredo, and Mexican national Erick Cuellar-Rodriguez, 31, each pleaded guilty Sept. 9, 2021. Cesar Juarez-Romero, 24, and Jose De Jesus Morales, 37, both Mexican nationals with no legal presence in the United States, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 and Dec. 10, 2021, respectively.

Today, U.S. District Judge Diana Saldana imposed a 360-month term imprisonment for Orozco-Ambriz for the drug trafficking conviction as well as another 24 months for violating the terms of his supervised releases for a prior conviction. The sentences will be served concurrently for a total 30-year-prison term. The court ordered Cuellar-Rodriguez to serve 210 months in prison, while De Jesus Garcia and Juarez-Romero received 51 and 108 months in prison, respectively. Judge Saldana will sentence De Jesus Morales at a later date.

In handing down the sentences, the court noted the significant quantity of illegal drugs coming across the border and acknowledged the significant threat to the public and the court’s role in deterring others who would engage in similar conduct.   

In 2018, law enforcement initiated an investigation into a drug distribution network that was responsible for transporting narcotics concealed within car batteries from Mexico into the United States.

Orozco-Ambriz and Cuellar-Rodriguez coordinated the transportation and delivery of multiple car batteries containing meth across the border into Laredo. Law enforcement had identified Juarez-Romero, De Jesus Morales and De Jesus Garcia as they delivered the drug laden items.

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As a result of the investigation, authorities seized approximately 44 kilograms of pure meth and one kilogram of heroin. 

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection conducted the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation dubbed Operation Fox Hound with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Webb County Sheriff’s Office, and La Salle County Sheriff’s Office. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found on the Department of Justice’s OCDETF webpage.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lance Watt prosecuted the case.

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