July 28, 2015

Federal Jury Convicts Texas Couple of Drug and Money Laundering Conspiracies

Aldo Villarreal, 46, of McAllen, Texas, was found guilty today by a federal jury of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and marijuana, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced David Rivera, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. Villarreal’s wife, Juana Edith Vela-Salinas, 41, also of McAllen, Texas was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering,

The jury returned its verdict following a two-week trial before Senior U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes, Jr.

The evidence at trial showed that, between 2008 and 2011, Villarreal was a manager in an extensive drug operation that distributed hundreds of kilograms of cocaine in Nashville and Atlanta, and distributed hundreds of kilograms of marijuana in Nashville. The evidence at trial was that the drugs were imported from Mexico into Texas before being transported to Atlanta and Nashville. The evidence also showed that Villarreal and Vela-Salinas conspired to launder the proceeds of that drug operation through a variety of methods, including the purchase of used vehicles in Nashville and the subsequent sale of vehicles at El Shadai, a used car lot the defendants owned and operated in Edinburg, Texas.

The underlying federal wiretap investigation was the same investigation about which former Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Deputy John Edwards sought to sell information to targets of the investigation in 2011. Edwards was indicted for obstruction of justice on April 20, 2011, and Judge Haynes sentenced Edwards to serve 220 months in prison on May 2, 2012.

Villarreal faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, and a maximum fine of $10,000,000, for his conviction on the drug conspiracy charge. Both defendants face up to 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to the value of the funds they laundered, for their convictions on the money laundering charge. The parties agreed that the two forfeiture counts alleged in the indictment will be resolved at sentencing by Senior Judge Haynes. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

The case was investigated by the FBI; the DEA; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; the Department of Homeland Security; the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department; the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lebanon Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brent A. Hannafan and Ben Schrader.