Sinaloa Cartel members caught in Lubbock methamphetamine drug ring

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Twelve defendants have been charged in a federal indictment, partially unsealed on Friday, with felony offenses stemming from their role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Eleven defendants, all from the Lubbock, Texas, area, were arrested last Thursday in a joint operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office and the Lubbock Police Department.  Those arrested made their initial appearances Friday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge E. Scott Frost, and most remain in federal custody.  Three defendants are set for detention hearings, and one defendant remains a fugitive.

In connection with the takedown, law enforcement seized approximately one kilogram of methamphetamine, 13 firearms, ammunition and several items of stolen property.

The indictment charges each of the following defendants with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine:

            Isabel Soto, 28
            Veronica Sanchez Lopez, 37
            Monty Fred Humble, 35
            Martin Leonard Lomas, 34
            Michael Brent Watson, 33
            Joe Louis Lara, 29
            Cruz Lee Betancur, 32
            Richard Luke Elam, 49
            Jonathon Christopher Chapa, 33
            Christopher Ray Lovington, 29
            Erica Dominguez, 36

In addition, most of the defendants are charged with at least one substantive count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and aiding and abetting.  Defendant Joe Louis Lara is also charged with two firearms offenses – one count of possession of firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and aiding and abetting and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of firearms and aiding and abetting.

The indictment alleges that the defendants conspired with, among others, three recently-convicted/sentenced defendants who were sent by the Sinaloa Cartel, an international drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime syndicate, to Lubbock to facilitate the distribution of methamphetamine in Lubbock for the cartel.  Each of these three below-listed defendants pleaded guilty last year to one count of possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and aiding and abetting and was sentenced last month as follows:

            Juan Carlos Pinales, 23, sentenced to 151 months in federal prison
            Ramon Osvaldo Escobar-Robles, 25, sentenced to 78 months in federal prison
            Jesus Mario Moreno-Perez, 24, sentenced to 120 months in federal prison

A federal indictment is an accusation by a grand jury.  A defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.  If convicted, however, the conspiracy count carries a maximum statutory penalty ranging from 20 years to life in federal prison and a $1 million to $10 million dollar fine.  The other drug counts carry a maximum statutory penalty ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.  One firearm count carries a statutory penalty of not less than five years or more than life in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.  The other firearm count carries a statutory penalty of not more than 10 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Haag is in charge of the prosecution.

(Press release from office of U.S. Attorney) 

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