TEXARKANA, Texas – A court sentenced a 31-year-old Starr County, Texas, man to federal prison for drug trafficking, and a 27-year-old Titus County, man pleaded guilty to drug trafficking in the Eastern District of Texas, according to U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox Thursday.
Armando Moreno Jr. pleaded guilty on Feb. 27, 2020, to conspiring to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Robert W. Schroeder III on June 10, 2020. The court ordered him to forfeit $350,000.00 in drug proceeds.
According to information presented in court, Moreno was stopped for a traffic violation on Oct. 29, 2019, in George West, Texas, in Live Oak County. A search of the vehicle revealed almost $350,000.00 in U.S. currency hidden in a secret compartment built into the car.
Moreno, traveling with his wife and two children, admitted to conspiring with his co-defendant, Jose Armando Rosales-Bernal, and others to distribute cocaine. Moreno described how he had trafficked at least 15 kilograms of cocaine from Mexico to his co-conspirators in Dallas, and that the money hidden in his car was drug proceeds destined for Mexico.
Gerardo Cabrera Ramirez pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Caroline M. Craven on June 11, 2020. Ramirez agreed to forfeit $7,500.00 in drug proceeds.
According to information presented in court, Ramirez conspired with Rodolfo Javier Falcon, Eleazar Martinez Reyes, and others to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine. Ramirez admitted that he is personally responsible for distributing more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, which he had obtained from Falcon and Reyes.
Specifically, on Sep. 11, 2018, and on Jan. 1, 2019, Ramirez led police on a foot chase and a dangerous vehicle pursuit when officers attempted to stop him while trafficking methamphetamine. Ramirez admitted that his flight from police in a vehicle recklessly created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to others.
Under federal statutes, Ramirez faces a minimum of ten years and up to life in federal prison at sentencing. The statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the court will determine the sentencing based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other regulatory factors. A sentencing hearing will be after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
Operation Dirty Bird is a long-term drug trafficking and money-laundering investigation that has already led to the seizure of more than $500,000.00 in U.S. Currency, almost 40 kilograms of cocaine, more than a quarter kilogram of methamphetamine, nine firearms, and multiple vehicles.
Rosales-Bernal, Julio Villarreal, Falcon, Claudia Claribel Gardea, Jose Geraldo Ornelas-Pineda, Dalia Janes Campos Rosales, and Reyes were previously charged and arrested as a result of this investigation. Ornelas-Pineda has pleaded guilty and sentenced.
Gardea has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Rosales-Bernal, Villarreal, Falcon, Campos Rosales, and Reyes have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. This case is pending in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.
If convicted, Rosales-Bernal, Villarreal, Falcon, Campos Rosales, and Reyes, face a minimum of 10 or 15 years and as much as life in federal prison.
The Mount Pleasant office of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the case. Also, the following agencies have played critical roles in this investigation: the Dallas office of Homeland Security Investigations; the Mesquite, Texas, Police Department SWAT team; the Texas National Guard; the Texas Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol Division and Aircraft Division; the George West, Texas, Police Department; the 23rd Judicial Drug Task Force in Dickson, Tennessee; and the Mount Pleasant, Texas, Police Department. The Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Hornok is prosecuting the case.