HOUSTON — Five men have pleaded guilty and received substantial sentences for their involvement in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery announced.
Ramon De La Cerda, 48, McAllen; Jose Rolando Gonzalez, 43, and Juan Alberto Mendez, 49, both missionaries; Solomon Robles, 35, San Juan; and Margil Reyna, 38, of Toledo, Ohio, admitted their role in the Tri City Bombers (TCB) conspiracy and were immediately convicted.
Today, US District Judge Sim Lake sentenced each man to 30 years in federal prison.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Lake found that De La Cerda and Gonzalez were senior members of the TCB, while Reyna and Robles were members of the criminal organization. Mendez was a drug dealer for the Gulf Cartel and a partner in the criminal enterprise.
“With today’s pleas, these five individuals have admitted their involvement in a series of senseless violent crimes, including murders, committed in furtherance of the criminal enterprise TCB,” Lowery said. “We and our federal and state law enforcement partners will continue our relentless efforts to root out gang violence in the District and hold accountable those who threaten the safety and well-being of our citizens.”
“Members of our Rio Grande Valley community deserve to live free from threats from criminal organizations,” said Jason Hudson, the FBI’s acting special agent in charge. “The FBI thanks our partners in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for their combined efforts to keep members of this organization off the streets.”
The court found that Mendez had twice charged De La Cerda, Gonzalez and Robles with the murder. The criminal enterprise kidnapped and murdered a man in McAllen and attempted to murder a woman in Mission. The woman was shot six times but survived.
Gonzalez was also involved in the October 2016 distribution of 27 kilograms of cocaine in Victoria.
In 2012, Reyna became involved in an ongoing marijuana trafficking conspiracy and a home burglary that resulted in the death of the Edinburgh homeowner. The homeowner’s son was also shot but survived.
The TCB is a multi-state national gang that was formed in the Pharr, San Juan, and Alamo areas of South Texas in the early 1980s. The TCB has an organized decision-making hierarchy, including a responsible person for each city and leaders within the organization who determine if its members have broken the gang’s rules and deserve punishment. To instill loyalty, including participation in the gang’s criminal activities and compliance with their strict rule structure, TCB leaders determine and order severe beatings against members and associates for disobedience or non-compliance with TCB rules.
The scope of the TCB’s crimes is wide-ranging and consistent in its nationwide operations. This RICO conspiracy includes murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, firearms crimes, money laundering and other crimes in furtherance of the organization’s business. The TCB brought money into the gang through murders, drug dealing, robberies and money laundering.
So far, 35 people have been convicted in the case.
All five men sentenced today have been in pre-trial detention since their arrest and will remain in pre-trial detention pending transfer to a US Bureau of Prisons facility, which will be decided in the near future.
The FBI conducted the OCDETF investigation, titled “Operation Bomb Disposal,” along with IRS-Criminal Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Hidalgo County Sheriff‘s Office, and Police Departments in McAllen, Mission, Edinburgh, Weslaco and pharr. OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-gathering, multi-agency approach. For more information on the OCDETF program, see OCDETF website of the Department of Justice.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anibal J. Alaniz and Casey N. MacDonald prosecuted the case with the assistance of Trial Attorney Brendan Woods and other members of the Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gangs Division.