Home Houston Press Releases 2013 Three Charged with Various Drug Trafficking Conspiracies

Three Charged with Various Drug Trafficking Conspiracies

U.S. Attorney’s Office July 31, 2013
  • Southern District of Texas (713) 567-9000

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX—A three-count indictment alleging cocaine and heroin trafficking conspiracies has been partially unsealed following the arrest of a Corpus Christi resident, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

The indictment, returned July 25, 2013, was partially unsealed yesterday following the arrest of Corpus Christi resident Jose Manuel Zuniga, aka “Slick,” 33. Zuniga made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington in Corpus Christi late yesterday, at which time he was ordered detained pending further criminal proceedings. He is set for an arraignment and detention hearing Friday, August 2, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. Also charged but already in custody on related charges in Houston are Ruben Esparza, aka “Popo,” 35, and Ernesto Villarreal aka “Crash,” 36, of Robstown. They are expected to make their appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge in Houston. The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not as yet in custody.

Zuniga is charged with Esparza and Villarreal with possessing with intent to distribute 28 grams of heroin. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment as well as $1 million fine.

Esparza and Villarreal also face not less than 10 years and a maximum of life in federal prison as well as a $10 million fine for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than a kilogram of heroin in 2011 and 2012. Both are further charged with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute less than 500 grams of cocaine in 2011. The punishment range for that conviction is at least five and up to 40 years’ imprisonment, as well as a possible $5 million fine.

The indictment also provides notice of the government to seek a money judgment against Esparza in the amount of $126,000, which is alleged to be proceeds from his heroin sales.

This case was investigated through a joint effort by the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Corpus Christi Police Department, and Texas Department of Public Safety.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Hess.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.