Six Months After La Familia Bust, Dallas Boss Pleads Guilty to Meth Trafficking

Categories: Crime, News
lafamiliamoneydrugs.jpg
Kimberly Thorpe
Some of the drugs and money seized by law-enforcement officials in the fall of 2009
We were there in October of last year, when the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the I.R.S., the U.S. Secret Service and Texas Air National Guard -- and every other law-enforcing abbreviation -- showed off the guns, drugs and money hauled in after they busted up the meth-trafficking members of La Familia. The feds handed down their indictments in Project Coronado; Dallas DEA's James Capra branded the 80 who were rounded up as "just a group of drug-trafficking thugs who profit off the backs of addiction."

Today, the U.S. Attorney's Office sent word: One of the defendants indicted in October -- 37-year-old Ricardo Hernandez-Cruz, otherwise known as "Rica," of Dallas -- pleaded guilty in Dallas federal court to a single count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Sentencing's set for summer, and he'll get a minimum of 10 years in prison and have to cough up a $4 million fine.

The entire release follows, but an excerpt from the plea agreement provides a glimpse into how the operation worked:
According to plea documents filed in the case, Hernandez-Cruz admitted that beginning in November 2008, a methamphetamine supply source in Mexico began importing multi-kilogram shipments of methamphetamine into the U.S. and that couriers delivered the methamphetamine to him and others in Dallas on a monthly basis.  Once the drugs arrived in Dallas, individuals maintained care, custody and control of the drugs at stash locations throughout north Texas.  Cruz routinely used his cell phone to negotiate the distribution and sale of methamphetamine with customers.
LEADER IN METHAMPHETAMINE (ICE) TRAFFICKING CONSPIRACY, RELATED TO MEXICAN LA FAMILIA DRUG TRAFFICKING CARTEL, PLEADS GUILTY

Defendant Charged in "Project Coronado" - Faces Life in Prison

DALLAS -- Ricardo Hernandez-Cruz, a.k.a "Rica," 37, of Dallas, pleaded guilty this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul D. Stickney to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine (ice), announced U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. Hernandez-Cruz admitted that during the time of the conspiracy, he distributed more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. He faces a maximum statutory sentence of not less than 10 years and up to life in prison and a $4 million fine. In addition, he will be required to forfeit a residence on Jester Avenue in Dallas. Sentencing is set for August 25, 2010, before U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade.

Hernandez-Cruz was arrested in October 2009 as part of the DEA-led "Project Coronado." In that operation, approximately 84 members of methamphetamine and cocaine trafficking cells associated with Mexico's La Familia cartel, based in the state of Michoacan, in southwestern Mexico, were arrested locally on charges outlined in 10 federal indictments and several complaints.

La Familia is one of the Mexican government's highest priorities in its battle against drug trafficking organizations. In a highly publicized incident last summer, members of La Familia launched a series of attacks against Mexican federal police officers and military members following the arrests of some of the cartel's high-level members, including Arnoldo Rueda-Medina, a.k.a. La Minsa and Miguel Angel Berraza-Villa, a.k.a. La Troca, resulting in the brutal murder of 16 federal police officers. Rueda-Medina and Berraza-Villa oversaw the shipments of cocaine and methamphetamine into the U.S. and coordinated the collection of drug proceeds in the U.S. for shipment to Mexico.

As part of Project Coronado, law enforcement officers executed numerous search warrants at various locations throughout North Texas during the week of October 21, 2009, that resulted in the seizure of more than 1000 pounds of methamphetamine, 4.5 kilograms of cocaine, $660,000 in cash, 50 firearms, 53 vehicles, one boat, two all terrain vehicles, one camper and two real properties. These seizures are in addition to more than 650 pounds of methamphetamine, 135 kilograms of cocaine, more than 100 firearms, more than $2.4 million in U.S. currency and more than $1 million in other assets already seized from members and customers of these organizations throughout the investigation by law enforcement in the DFW area.

Since 2006, DEA has been investigating several methamphetamine trafficking organizations that routinely receive significant quantities of methamphetamine, as well as cocaine and marijuana, from supply sources in Michoacán. The organizations are all part of a network of methamphetamine distributors that receive large amounts of methamphetamine from, and in some instances work on behalf of, the La Familia cartel in Michoacán. Law enforcement learned that the drug shipments entered the U.S. primarily through southern Texas, with the DFW area serving as a critical distribution point for La Familia and a transshipment point for drug shipments to Georgia, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Mississippi and Chicago.

Evidence was presented during Hernandez-Cruz's detention hearing that the investigation revealed that Hernandez-Cruz acted as a Dallas-based cell head leader and that he received monthly shipments of methamphetamine directly from upper level members of the "La Familia Michoacán" drug trafficking cartel. He then distributed the methamphetamine out to numerous customers throughout north Texas.

According to plea documents filed in the case, Hernandez-Cruz admitted that beginning in November 2008, a methamphetamine supply source in Mexico began importing multi-kilogram shipments of methamphetamine into the U.S. and that couriers delivered the methamphetamine to him and others in Dallas on a monthly basis. Once the drugs arrived in Dallas, individuals maintained care, custody and control of the drugs at stash locations throughout north Texas. Cruz routinely used his cell phone to negotiate the distribution and sale of methamphetamine with customers.

Hernandez-Cruz also admitted that he relied on others to deliver multi-pound quantities of methamphetamine to customers and to collect drug proceeds once they became due. Cruz relied on other co-conspirators to secrete the money in various vehicles and transport the drug proceeds to the supply source in Mexico.

Federal, state and local agencies assisting DEA in Project Coronado in North Texas include: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; FBI; Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation; U.S. Secret Service; North Texas HIDTA, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Air National Guard; Police Departments from Abilene, Addison, Allen, Arlington, Bedford, Coppell, Dallas, Duncanville, Fort Worth, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Keller, Lewisville, Mesquite, North Richland Hills, Richardson, Rockwall, Waxahachie and Weatherford, Texas; Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety; Dallas County Constables; Rockwall County Special Crimes Unit; Sheriff's Departments in Dallas, Ellis, Denton, Hill and Parker County, Texas; the Sheriff's Department in Carter County, Oklahoma; and the Dallas and Tarrant County District Attorney's Offices.

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