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2013-07-11

Texas Syndicate convictions in federal court, former BSCO deputy to be sentenced later

Special to the Courier

In Del Rio, three Texas Syndicate members from Uvalde face up to life in federal prison after a federal jury convicted them on Tuesday, July 2, of various violations of federal racketeering offenses committed in Uvalde, San Antonio and the surrounding areas, United States Attorney Robert Pitman announced last week.
In a related matter, on April 2, former Bandera County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Cuellar of Hondo pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful use of a government computer and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Cuellar's guilty plea came prior to trial.
By pleading guilty, Cuellar admitted that on August 31, 2010, he unlawfully accessed a department computer in order to obtain law enforcement information regarding co-conspirators. As a result, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the drug charge and up to five years in federal prison on the unlawful access charge.
Cuellar, along with Sandra Torres of Uvalde, is currently on bond pending sentencing.
Jurors convicted Raul "Fatboy" Rodriquez, 38; Mike "Big Mike" Cassiano, 37; and Cristobal "Little Cris" Velasquez, 35, of conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) statute. Evidence presented during the trial revealed that Rodriquez, Cassiano and Velasquez, along with 11 other Texas Syndicate members and associates, conspired since 2002 to commit three murders, one attempted murder and extortion, as well as distribution of controlled substances.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, other convictions included:
• Rodriquez of a violent crime in aid of racketeering, namely the murder of Rogelio Mata in Uvalde on Oct. 13, 2002, for allegedly failing to follow the rules of the Texas Syndicate;
• Velasquez 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 Dec. 25, 2005, in Uvalde for allegedly disrespecting the Texas Syndicate, as well as for conspiracy to commit robbery in violation of the RICO statute; and,
• Cassiano, who previously held a leadership role in the criminal organization in 2005, of two counts of conspiracy to commit violent crime in aid of racketeering for the Jose Guadalupe de la Garza murder and the Nov. 9, 2009, murder of Jesse James Polanco in Uvalde. Polanco was murdered because it was suspected he was cooperating with law enforcement.
After pleading guilty prior to trial to violating the RICO Statute, the following 11 co-defendants are awaiting sentencing:
Sotero Rodriguez "June" Martinez, Chuco Mario "Mariachi" Martinez, Jose Andres "Yogi" Torres, Larry "Little Larry" Munoz Jr., Brian "Tata" Esparza, Charles "Horse" Esparza, Ervey "Mad Max" Sanchez and Inez "Bebito," all of Uvalde; and Mark Anthony Vela, Mario Alberto "The Enforcer" Gonzales and Charles Olan Quintanilla, all of Hondo.
In a separate, but related matter, on Thursday, June 20, a federal jury in Del Rio returned guilty verdicts against Eli Torres and Alfredo Tapia III, the last two defendants involved in a narcotics distribution ring operating in Hondo, Uvalde, San Antonio and the surrounding areas. This narcotics distribution ring was connected to and associated with the Texas Syndicate prison gang.
Jurors convicted 37-year-old Eli Torres of Uvalde of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine from August 1, 2009, until Sept. 28, 2011.
Evidence presented at trial revealed that Torres, as a member of the Texas Syndicate, participated in this drug distribution ring by using the organization's drug distribution connections to aid him in obtaining cocaine to sell on the streets of Uvalde.
Torres faces between 10 years and life in federal prison for this conviction. 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. As a result, he faces between five and 80 years in prison for this conviction. Torres, who remains in federal custody, awaits sentencing scheduled for Dec. 16.
Jurors also convicted 42-year-old Alfredo "Naco" Tapia, III, of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine from August 1, 2009, until Sept. 28, 2011. He was also found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana from August 1,
2009 until Sept. 28, 2011. Tapia faces between five and 40 years in federal prison for each conviction.
Evidence presented at trial revealed that Tapia was associated with members of the Texas Syndicate prison gang and facilitated their distribution of cocaine and marijuana.
Other members of the conspiracy listed below all await sentencing. Defendants in the conspiracy who remain in federal custody include Jose Alberto "Spike" Ruiz, Calletano "Cat" Nira, Joshua Leonard Benavides, Ted "TJ" Benavides, Jessica Escareno, Jaime Corona Jr. and Ruben Dominguez, all of Hondo; and John Khosravi of San Antonio. Along with Cuellar and Torres, all defendants entered guilty pleas prior to trial.
These prosecutions 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 US Bureau of Prisons.
The US Marshals Service, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Customs and Border Protection and the Uvalde County Sheriff's Department assisted in making the arrests.
Assistant United States Attorneys Erica Giese, Ralph Paradiso and Patrick Burke presented the cases.