In Del Rio, a federal judge sentenced 29 Uvalde/Hondo-area Texas Syndicate (TS) members over the past two weeks to federal prison, including four defendants to life imprisonment, for various racketeering and drug trafficking offenses committed in Uvalde, San Antonio and the surrounding areas announced United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Division.
United States District Judge Alia Moses sentenced TS members and Uvalde residents George “Curious” Sanchez, age 40; Raul “Fatboy” Rodriquez, age 42; Mike “Big Mike” Cassiano, age 39; and, Cristobal “Little Cris” Velasquez, age 37, to life in federal prison for conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute.
On April 2, 2015, jurors in Del Rio convicted Sanchez of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute. Evidence presented during his trial revealed that Sanchez, along with fourteen other TS members and associates, conspired since 2002 to commit three murders and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, 100 kilograms of marijuana and three ounces of methamphetamine. Jurors also found Sanchez guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering for the murder of Rogelio Mata on October 13, 2002, in Uvalde. Mr. Mata was murdered for his failure to follow TS rules.
On July 1, 2013, in a separate jury trial in Del Rio, Sanchez’s co-defendants Raul Rodriquez, Mike Cassiano and Cristobal Velasquez were convicted of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute. Rodriquez also was convicted of the substantive charge of violent crime in aid of racketeering for his role in the murder of Rogelio Mata. Velasquez was found guilty of conspiracy to commit violent crime in aid of racketeering and the substantive charge of violent crime in aid of racketeering for the murder of Jose Guadalupe de la Garza on December 25, 2005 in Uvalde. Cassiano also was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit violent crime in aid of racketeering for his role in the murder of Jose Guadalupe de la Garza and the November 9, 2009, murder of Jesse James Polanco in Uvalde. Judge Moses sentenced the remaining ten defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty prior to jury selection to conspiracy to violate the RICO statute, to prison terms ranging from five years to life. A 15th defendant, Inez Mata, pleaded guilty to the RICO conspiracy charge prior to jury selection. He died of natural causes in Uvalde in March 2015 while awaiting sentencing in this case.
In addition to the RICO defendants, 15 other TS members and associates were sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a drug trafficking enterprise. Eli Torres, age 39, of Uvalde, and Alfredo Tapia, III (aka “Naco”), age 44, of Hondo, were sentenced to 300 months and 240 months’ imprisonment, respectively, after a jury convicted them of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
Jurors found that Torres participated in this drug distribution ring as a member of the TS prison gang using the gang’s drug distribution connections to aid him in obtaining cocaine to sell on the streets of Uvalde from August 1, 2009, until September 28, 2011. Torres was also found guilty of possession with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of the Sacred Heart Parish School in Uvalde.
Jurors also found Tapia guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana during that same time period. Drug transactions were conducted at Tapia’s home and on one occasion a person was held at gun point in Tapia’s backyard until that person paid his drug debt. Tapia was associated with members of the Texas Syndicate prison gang and facilitated their distribution of cocaine and marijuana.
The remaining 13 defendants, including former Bandera County Sheriff’s Deputy Thomas Cuellar, pleaded guilty prior to trial to conspiring to distribute controlled substances in the Uvalde and Hondo areas. In addition to the narcotics charges, Cuellar also pleaded guilty to unlawfully accessing a police department computer in order to obtain law enforcement information regarding the co-conspirators. Judge Moses sentenced Cuellar to 40 months’ incarceration while sentencing the others to federal prison terms ranging from 48 months to 151 months.
According to testimony at trial, the Texas Syndicate is a violent prison gang that has spread its influence into Texas cities and towns. Members of the Texas Syndicate are bound by a set of rules that ensure loyalty and participation in the enterprise’s criminal activities and are subject to strict and harsh discipline, including death, for violating the rules. The rules require that a member continue his participation in the organization even after his release from prison. Membership is for life and the gang comes first above all else, to include family.
The case resulted from a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the Texas Department of Public Safety—Criminal Investigations Division, San Antonio Police Department, Medina County Sheriff’s Office and the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office. Also assisting in the investigation was the 38th Judicial District Adult Probation Gang Unit, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Customs and Border Protection and the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Department assisted in making the arrests. Assistant United States Attorneys Patrick Burke, Ralph Paradiso, Erica Giese and Matthew Watters handled this matter on behalf of the Government.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
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