Mexican organized crime moving into Pcola?

The possible Mexican mafia connection to the Billings case has been rumored from the very beginning. Our sources that told me about the contract hit motive also mentioned the Mexican mafia, but I couldn’t find anything to substantiate the rumor.

There have been two major drug busts in the Pensacola area over the past two years that have strong Mexican connections.

In December 2007, Cancun’s Mexican Grill was raided by local, state and federal authorities–the charges were drug and human trafficking. Twenty-five people were arrested in the raids, 15 of whom were deported. Owner Rogelio Galvan-Chavez was sentenced to life in prison April 30, 2008 for operating a drug ring from his business and violating immigration laws. Cancun’s was in Gulf Breeze, the small town across from Pensacola Bay where Patrick Gonzalez and Pamela Wiggins live.

During the trial of Galvan-Chavez, a special agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency testified that the restaurant owner had ties to Mexican drug cartels.

In September 2008, Escambia County deputies raided 15 homes beginning as part of a multi-agency, multi-state drug sweep. Ten arrests were made and two large garbage bags of marijuana were found in the closet of one house and a suitcase filled with marijuana in a backyard shed of another home.

Simultaneously raids were made in Wharton County, Texas where three people were arrested for conspiracy to deliver over 10,000 pounds of marijuana and drug possession.

Wharton County is southwest of Houston on the US 59, which is a well known corridor in Texas for both drugs and money derived from criminal enterprises. The highway runs to the Rio Grande Valley where the U.S. Border Patrol agents have set an annual record for marijuana seizures by confiscating more than 750,000 pounds of the drug since Oct. 1.

This past June alone, Texas state troopers found five bundles of U.S. currency totaling $40,000 hidden underneath a truck cab’s center console. In another arrest, officers found 1,400 pounds of marijuana with a street value of about $500,000. The prior week, a trooper arrested two men who had 125 pounds of marijuana hidden in two spare tires, drugs worth $40,625. During yet another traffic stop, officers found two pounds of cocaine and a pound of methamphetamine with a combined value of about $75,000 in the dashboard of a Ford pick-up.