2 get combined 197 years in federal prison | USAO-SDTX

McALLEN, Texas – Two men have been ordered to federal prison for decades following their more than a dozen convictions of drug crimes, carjacking, robbery and firearms offenses, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery along with Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI – San Antonio Division and Special Agent in Charge Daniel C. Comeaux of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  

A McAllen jury deliberated for five hours before convicting Mexican citizen Marin Macrin Cerda aka Filtro, 34, and Jose Miguel Montemayor aka El Mickey, 30, Mission, Sept. 6, 2019, following a seven-day trial. 

Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez handed Montemayor and Cerda a total of 84 and 113 years in prison, respectively.

At the hearing, the court learned the two men victimized over 35 people – through 13 carjackings, three home invasions and the corrupt actions of two former law enforcement officers. The victims included 11 children as young as 5 and with one with disabilities. Additional evidence also detailed how the men were directly involved in the attempted or successful theft of approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine valued at approximately $2 million. They were also involved in the theft of over $100,000 in suspected drug proceeds and 300 kilograms of marijuana worth approximately $200,000.

While imposing the sentences, Judge Alvarez noted that while she does not remember every single case before her, this one was memorable in the way the rip crew indiscriminately targeted drug traffickers and innocent civilians. The court heard details of their violent crimes which included several discharges of firearms on highways and neighborhoods. Judge Alvarez further mentioned that when first sworn as a federal judge, these kind of violent actions were more often seen in Mexico, but have become more common on the border. 

“These defendants were the leaders of Los Mickies, a violent criminal organization that supported drug trafficking activities by engaging in multiple carjackings, home invasions and a neighborhood shootout,” said Combs. “The significant sentences imposed today send a strong message to anyone who thinks they can conduct violent acts in our neighborhoods. We will not tolerate those who violate the peace and safety of our communities and recklessly endanger the public.”

“This investigation highlights the positive impact of multiple agencies joining together to target a violent drug trafficking organization,” said Comeaux. “These criminals routinely resorted to lethal violence in furtherance of their drug trafficking ambitions. DEA will continue to join forces with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to target and remove those violent organizations who prey on our communities.”  

Cerda and Montemayor were convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, conspiracy to possess a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and a crime of violence, two counts of carjacking, four counts of Hobbs Act robberies, two counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and/or a drug trafficking offense and three counts of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and/or a drug trafficking offense. Cerda was also convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, an additional count of carjacking, an additional count of Hobbs Act robbery, two additional counts of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence or drug trafficking offense and one additional count of discharging a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense or crime of violence in relation to events he participated in without Montemayor.

The investigation began after discovering a local rip crew was responsible for multiple carjackings and home invasions in Hidalgo County in order to steal controlled substances or drug proceeds.

During trial, testimony revealed Cerda and other crew members utilized law enforcement officials to further their drug trafficking activities. Two of those included former Donna Independent School District police officer Juan F. Mata and former Hidalgo County Court at Law No. 6 Bailiff Oscar De La Cruz. Jurors heard Mata conducted fraudulent traffic stops in order to allow members of the organization to steal cocaine and marijuana hidden in load vehicles. De La Cruz produced fictitious federal search warrants forging former U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos’ signature and queried sensitive law enforcement and judicial databases the organization would provide to sources of supply in order to retain and steal controlled substances in their possession.

Also during trial, the jury heard about multiple crimes involving Cerda, Montemayor or both between 2016-2017. Three of those crimes were carjackings in McAllen and Pharr involving both men in an attempt to steal cocaine. In the second and third instances, rip crew members discharged firearms at the vehicles in order to obtain the controlled substances. Testimony further revealed Cerda and Montemayor were involved in a robbery which resulted in a shoot-out in a McAllen neighborhood. Another crime involved a home invasion, during which the criminals entered the wrong residence seeking drugs and terrorizing a family, including a female who was eight months pregnant. Cerda and Montemayor also served as scouts for a drug transaction involving more than 20 kilograms of cocaine Feb. 1, 2017, in McAllen.

Jurors heard the rip crew continued their activities when they also attempted to rob multiple kilograms of cocaine from a vehicle traveling through Mission and McAllen on Feb. 27, 2017. Cerda and Montemayor discharged firearms at the targeted load vehicle in an attempt to steal the cocaine. Testimony revealed a bullet struck an occupant of the vehicle who required significant medical attention. Cerda was further involved in the carjacking of a tractor trailer in rural Mission July 7, 2016, and a car chase and shootout Jan. 6, 2017. In the first instance, the rip crew threatened a family, including several juveniles, in order to steal a tractor trailer believed to conceal drug proceeds. During the car chase incident, the crew discharged firearms and rammed their vehicles into a vehicle before it ultimately crashed. 

Jurors also heard testimony relating to a home invasion conducted in Mission April 3, 2017, when rip crew members, including Cerda, entered the residence of a suspected drug trafficker armed with firearms and successfully stole more than $100,000 in drug proceeds. Casings recovered from three of the crimes were fired from firearms found in Cerda’s vehicle.

The defense attempted to convince the jury that although the crimes had been committed, co-conspirators fabricated Cerda’s and Montemayor’s involvement. They did not believe those claims and convicted both men as charged.

Both Cerda and Montemayor have been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

To date, more than 30 co-conspirators have been convicted in connection with the investigation. Mata and De La Cruz also pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to 130 and 60 months, respectively. Others to date have received sentences up to 240 months with nine receiving sentences in excess of 10 years.  

The FBI and DEA conducted the investigation with assistance from Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force, Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol and Regional Crime Laboratories, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office and Police Departments in McAllen, Mission, Pharr and San Juan. 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Roberto Lopez Jr. and K. Alejandra Andrade are prosecuting the case. 

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