Drug Traffickers Plead Guilty on Eve of Trial
BROWNSVILLE, TX—Jose Angel Marichalar, 33, Phillip Cross, 56, and Yisnel Garcia Gonzalez, 30, have all entered guilty pleas in a trial set to begin today, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Marichalar, from Mission, pleaded guilty shortly before the jury was empanelled this morning, while Cross, from Indianapolis, Indiana, and Gonzalez, from Miami, Florida, entered their guilty pleas late yesterday.
Marichalar was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and conspiracy to launder money. He is also forfeiting his interest in several properties and numerous personal items, including tractors, trailers, and jewelry, valued at more than $1 million. Additionally, as part of his plea agreement, Marichalar has also agreed to a $10 million money judgment against him.
Cross also pleaded guilty to the marijuana conspiracy, while Garcia pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute approximately 1,141 kilograms of marijuana that occurred during a traffic stop in Zapata County on July 12, 2012.
Evidence presented in support of the pleas demonstrated that Marichalar, Cross, Garcia and others were part of a multi-state drug trafficking and money laundering organization that had existed since 2010. The drug trafficking organization, based out of the Rio Grande Valley, would hire out of state truck drivers to haul loads of produce with ton quantities of marijuana hidden in false compartments. Drug proceeds would then be transported back to the Rio Grande Valley. The conspiracy extended to Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
All three men will remain in custody pending their sentencings. Cross and Garcia will be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Hilda G. Tagle on September 10, 2014, while Marichalar will be sentenced September 14, 2014. At their hearings, they will all face a mandatory minimum of 10 years and up to life in federal prison as well as a maximum $10 million fine. Marichalar also faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and another $500,000 fine for the money laundering conspiracy.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; FBI; Sheriff’s Offices in Cameron and Zapata Counties; Hildalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force; Border Patrol; and the Brownsville Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Angel Castro and Jody Young are prosecuting.