Twenty-One Gang Members/Associates Sentenced for Cocaine Trafficking and Laundering Millions in Drug Proceeds
|U.S. Attorney’s Office September 28, 2009|
HOUSTON—Pedro Gil III, 37, a member of the Los Hermanos de Pistoleros (HPL) prison and street gang, was among 21 defendants sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake over the past seven days, United States Attorney Tim Johnson announced today. Gil pleaded guilty April 30, 2009, to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and to laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds together with 23 other HPL members or associates.
Today, Gil was sentenced to 300 months for the conspiracy conviction and 240 months on the money laundering conviction to be served concurrently, without parole. The sentence is to be followed by five years supervised release and will forfeit all interest in eight real estate properties, multiple high-end vehicles and a laundry list of expensive jewelry seized upon his arrest in May 2008 as well as $4.5 million dollars in cash. The sentence reflects the court’s finding that Gil was a leader/manager of the conspiracy. The court denied Gil’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea filed on Friday, Sept. 25, 2009.
On May 28, 2008, Gil, along with 23 members or associates of the HPL were charged in a 12-count indictment returned by a Houston grand jury for their alleged involvement in receiving kilogram quantities of cocaine smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico, storing the contraband in Laredo and Houston area stash houses and transporting and distributing the cocaine to HPL members and associates in the State of Texas and elsewhere beginning in 2001.
Gil and 12 HPL members and associates were also charged with collecting and laundering millions of dollars generated by the sale of the cocaine beginning in July 2007. The proceeds were used to promote the illegal activity through the rental or purchase of apartments, hotel rooms and residences to stash, store or package cocaine, vehicles and cellular telephones or to conceal the source of the proceeds through the deposit of cash into personal bank accounts in Laredo and in amounts designed to avoid currency transaction reports. Millions of dollars were deposited and withdrawn from personal bank accounts in Laredo.
“This prosecution sends an important message to those gangs who continue to harm our communities not only through violence but through trafficking in narcotics,” Johnson said. “We have taken an important step toward accomplishing our mission to use the collective resources of the federal government to disrupt and dismantle violent prison and street gangs.”
Gil’s arrest and subsequent conviction came after the conclusion of a four-year long joint investigation conducted by special agents of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division and officers of the Houston, Pasadena, Beeville and Laredo Police Departments, sheriff’s departments in Harris, Fort Bend and Victoria counties, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
The HPL gang was formed in the mid 1980s in the Texas prison system by Latino inmates. Membership in the gang is displayed by tattoos including a .45 caliber handgun along the waistline, the letters HPL or objects in the shape of HPL. The gang allegedly makes its money through the sale and distribution of illegal drugs through Texas including Houston, Victoria and Laredo. A highly organized group with specific rules and regulations mandating lifetime membership, loyalty and participation in the criminal activities of the organization and a decision making hierarchy, the HPL structure also provides for each city and prison to have its own leadership structure and some autonomy from the statewide organization.
Others sentenced for their alleged involvement in this case include Daniel Avila; Mark Barrera; Christopher Castaneda, aka PJ; Marino Duran, Raul Garcia, aka Flaco; Manuel Bernard Harris, aka Black; Juan Manuel Hernandez - aka Meme, Benjamin Leal - aka Benny or Primo, Albert Lerma - aka Gas, Joe Brian Martinez, aka Turtle; Robert Luis Narvaez, aka Tato; Roberto Navarrete Jr.; Marvyn Ramdeen, aka Black or Marv; Terrance Robinson , aka Monster; Pacino Sanmiguel, aka P or Pedro; Roberto Sanchez Jr., aka Camaron; Brian Michael Washington; Alma Gil, aka Alma Ancira; Maria D. Padilla Ancira; and Lorena Garcia Hernandez. Those sentences ranged from a three-year-term of probation for Padilla Ancira, Gil’s mother-in-law, who was minimally involved, to a 235-month term for Avila, Gil’s right-hand man, who pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy.
The remaining three defendants—Mark Urdialez, Eric Lee Rodriguez, Juan Jose Ramirez—are scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow by Judge Lake.
The case is prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tim S. Braley and Mary Lou Castillo.