FBI Indianapolis
Public Affairs Specialist Chris Bavender
(317) 430-4140
March 15, 2022

Cartel Associate Charged in Indiana and Texas Sentenced to 30 Years

FORT WAYNE—A man arrested in Mexico in 2019 on federal warrants out of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston, Texas, was among five men who pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to 30 years on March 14 for their involvement in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy.

Juan Alberto Mendez, 49, formerly of Mission, Texas, and an associate of the Gulf Cartel, had been wanted for his involvement in drug racketeering, including murder in aid of racketeering, between 2015 and 2018 in Indiana and Texas. On August 1, 2019, Mendez was captured in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico, by FBI and Mexican officials and deported to the United States on August 2, 2019.

Mendez had been the subject of an FBI Wanted poster in 2019, with a reward of up to $25,000 offered for information leading directly to his arrest.

Mendez, along with Ramon De La Cerda, 48, McAllen, Texas; Jose Rolando Gonzalez, 43, Mission, Texas; Salomon Robles, 35, San Juan; and Margil Reyna, 38, Toledo, Ohio, admitted their roles in the Tri-City Bombers (TCB) racketeering conspiracy Monday and were immediately sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sim Lake.

In handing down the sentences, Judge Lake found De La Cerda and Gonzalez to be ranking members of the TCB, while Reyna and Robles were members of the criminal organization. Mendez was a drug distributor for the Gulf Cartel and associate of the criminal enterprise.

The court found Mendez hired De La Cerda, Gonzalez, and Robles to kill on two occasions. The criminal enterprise kidnapped and murdered a man in McAllen and attempted to murder a woman in Mission. The woman was shot six times but survived.

The TCB is a national gang active in multiple states that was formed in the early 1980s in the Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo areas of South Texas.

The FBI led the OCDETF investigation dubbed “Operation Bomb Disposal,” and “Operation Strongman,” along with IRS-Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, and police departments in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and McAllen, Mission, Edinburg, Weslaco, and Pharr, Texas.