Several of the suspects in the Billings murders mentioned the Mexican mafia. Here is the latest press release from the U.S. District Attorney:
LAST TWO DEFENDANTS CONVICTED IN INTERNATIONAL DRUG AND GUN-TRAFFICKING RING
PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA – Two of six defendants arrested in a large scale drug-trafficking conspiracy with ties to Mexico were convicted yesterday at the conclusion of a four-day jury trial in federal court in Panama City, announced United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh, Northern District of Florida. Jose Barajas, 53, of Texas, and Pascual Montor-Torres, 27, of Mexico, were convicted of conspiring with co-defendants Ramiro Gomez-Gomez, Martin Ramirez-Rodriguez, Santiago Valdez-Gomez, Maria Cifuentes-Espinoza, and Florencio Barrios-Hernandez to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine between April 2009 and May 2010. With the exception of Gomez-Gomez, who is a fugitive, each of the co-defendants entered guilty pleas in the case over the course of the past month.
The government’s evidence at trial showed that Barajas was a drug courier who brought multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine from Houston, Texas, to drug stash houses in Dothan, Alabama and Alford, Florida. He delivered the cocaine to co-defendants Ramirez-Rodriguez, Valdez-Gomez, and Gomez-Gomez. Barajas transported the cocaine in a Ford F150 truck, which had secret compartments within the wheel-well liners of the truck’s front tires. After Barajas delivered the cocaine, Montor-Torres tested its quality, repackaged it, and sold it in smaller quantities.
In addition to the drug-trafficking charges in this case, many of the defendants also faced gun charges, stemming from a scheme by Gomez-Gomez and Ramirez-Rodriguez to obtain AK-47 machine guns from the Panama City area and export them to Mexico for use by associates engaged in a war with rival drug cartels over control of the lucrative drug routes into the United States. Ramirez-Rodriguez pled guilty to conspiring to export machine guns from the U.S. and to possession of machine guns. He, Valdez-Gomez, and Barrios-Hernandez also pled guilty to being illegal aliens in possession of firearms.
Barajas and Montor-Torres will be sentenced before United States District Judge Richard Smoak at hearings beginning at 9:45 a.m. on November 10, 2010. They face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years’ up to a maximum of life imprisonment. Their co-defendants are scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Smoak at hearings beginning at 9:30 a.m. on October 27, 2010.
This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the Panama City Police Department, the Panama City Beach Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, and the Dothan Police Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Gayle E. Littleton.
News Herald reported earlier: The Drug Enforcement Administration seized earlier this year Jose Barajas’ truck after his arrest and discovered secret compartments in Ford F-150 beneath the wheel wells where they believe he stashed cocaine that he brought from Texas to a stash house in Dothan, Ala. The compartments were discovered during a search by DEA agents with experience near the U.S. border with Mexico who noticed the smell of fresh paint and bondo, a compound used to repair vehicles.
According to the Jackson County Floridian, the fugitive Ramiro Gomez-Gomez was indicted for attempting to purchase at least 50 AK-47 machine guns, as well as bulletproof vests in the Florida Panhandle.
Mexican Drug Cartels, drugs, guns, trucks with secret compartments…