Reputed cartel boss set for trial
February 5th 2012 · 0 Comments
Rafael Cardenas Vela, an alleged plaza boss in the cartel’s Matamoros operation, was caught Oct. 20 in Port Isabel during a traffic stop, after a lengthy investigation and surveillance by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
A tip had led ICE agents to a ranch home in Rio Hondo, where they observed Cardenas Vela, the nephew of notorious Gulf Cartel leaders Osiel Cardenas Guillen and Tony Ezequiel Cardenas, leave the ranch in a vehicle with three others before Port Isabel police stopped the vehicle in the small coastal town.
The case is ongoing in Brownsville federal court, with guilty pleas from two of the man’s associates as the last major development.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan has set a final pretrial conference for Cardenas Vela for Feb. 28 before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, according to court documents.
Jury selection will take place in Hanen’s courtroom March 1.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the associates who have entered guilty pleas asked for an expedited sentencing, which was granted and set for Feb. 22 before Hanen.
Francisco Javier Escalante-Jimenez and German Alejandro Huizar-Marroquin pleaded guilty in December to giving false statements to federal agents.
An indictment accused the two men, who were arrested alongside Cardenas Vela, of lying to agents about their knowledge of the true identity of Cardenas Vela.
Cardenas Vela, also known as “Junior,” “Commandante 900” and “Rolex,” had presented authorities with a false passport in the name of Pedro Garcia Gonzalez.
The third man in the apprehended vehicle, who remains uncharged, told agents the man’s real name.
Court documents detail Cardenas Vela’s role in the Gulf Cartel, which involved managing cocaine and marijuana transportation from Mexico to cities throughout the United States for at least a decade.
He is accused in a four-count indictment of participating in drug and money laundering conspiracies.
A version of this column originally appeared in www.valleymorningstar.com.