January 29, 2015

Federal and State Authorities Arrest 23 Individuals Today in Relation to Cocaine and Methamphetamine Distribution Operations in Permian Basin

In Midland and Odessa this morning, authorities arrested 23 individuals on federal drug and firearms charges announced Acting United States Attorney Richard L. Durbin, Jr., Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy, El Paso Division, and Midland Police Chief Price Robinson.

Federal grand jury indictments returned yesterday charge 21 of those arrested, as well as five other individuals who were already in custody prior to today and seven who are still at large, for alleged drug trafficking offenses or federal firearms violations stemming from two separate investigations. Two arrested today were charged by federal criminal complaints filed this morning. A complete list of defendants is below.

In the Cortez investigation, authorities arrested 14 individuals, including 30–year-old ringleader Andrew Cortez of Midland. Cortez is a partial owner and operator of a family business called “Alfredo’s Paleteria” with stores in Midland, Odessa, San Angelo and Fort Stockton. Authorities allege that Cortez, along with his 32-year-old brother, Albert Cortez, used the business operation as fronts for cocaine distribution. According to court records, the defendants allegedly conspired since February 2014 to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine.

In the Derington investigation, authorities arrested a total of nine individuals on federal drug charges, including ringleader 33-year-old Brandon Derington of Midland. Authorities allege that Derington and the other defendants conspired since February 2014 to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute it throughout the Permian Basin area. Ruben Long, a 35-year-old Midland resident who was also arrested today, is charged by federal indictment with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Tiffany Stepford, age 26 of Odessa, and Michael Johnson, age 58 of Odessa were two non-indicted individuals arrested this morning in connection with the Derington investigation. Both have been charged by federal criminal complaints following their arrests. Stepford is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm; Johnson, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

During these investigations, authorities have seized 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, 12 firearms, approximately $127,000 in U.S. Currency as well as two additional money seizures of unknown quantity.

“Today’s enforcement operations dismantled two separate but significant drug trafficking organizations involved in the distribution and trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamine in the Permian Basin. Jointly, through the hard work and dedication of our agents along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, these criminal organizations will now face west Texas justice,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Will Glaspy, El Paso Division.

Upon conviction, the defendants face sentences of between 10 years and life in federal prison; between five and 40 years in federal prison; or, up to 20 years in federal prison depending on the amount of controlled substances involved. Stepford and Long each face ten years in federal prison upon conviction of the felon in possession charge. All of the defendants remain in federal custody. Detention hearings are scheduled for February 3, 2015, and February 9, 2015, in Midland before United States Magistrate Judge David Counts.

These federal charges and arrests resulted from investigations conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Midland Police Department and the Ector County Sheriff’s Office together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office. The United States Marshals Service and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Air Support Unit assisted in making today’s arrests. These matters are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brandi Young.

An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.