Federal investigators following a sector of the Gulf Cartel, one of the oldest organized crime groups in Mexico, are releasing details into a raid that put 13 men behind bars. News 13 has this EXCLUSIVE story, From the Stash House to the Jailhouse.
Many of you may recall February 5, 2012 as a cold but noisy night. Residents living near Vernon wrote to us, describing the noisy helicopters skimming the surface. But what they didn't know, is that this was a planned operation that brought 13 men to justice.
Members from numerous federal, state and local agencies including the Homeland Security Investigations, DEA and the Bay & Washington County Sheriff offices ascended on a group of dangerous and armed men. The group based out of Mc Allen, Texas and part of the infamous Gulf Cartel planned to unload a large shipment of drugs at their stash house in Washington County.
In the early morning hours, police waited for the go ahead, which was when the men began to unload the thousands of pounds of marijuana. With the help of helicopters and several flash bangs, the group of close to 30 cars entered the property to make the arrest; over 70 first gathered at a nearby staging area.
Sheriff Frank McKeithen who was among those involved says it wasn't easy, since all of the suspects took off running upon discovery.
"I think that it was the element of surprise. I don't think they had a clue that anyone knew where they were or what they were doing." McKeithen said.
"It was chaos, we were very lucky that we didn't have anyone injured during the course of the operation." Resident Homeland Security Investigations Agent Scott Springer said.
Since 2007, HSI McAllen office had been conducting an investigation that included the members of the Gulf Cartel. The operation has resulted in the arrest of 43 individuals and the seizure of 35,000 lbs. of marijuana, 803 lbs. of cocaine, 42 lbs. of methamphetamine and over $2 million in drug proceeds.
On a daily basis, members of this organization smuggle drugs across the US-Mexico border and store the narcotics in stash houses or warehouses along the Southwest border, until they are trafficked further into the interior of the US.
Between October 2011, HSI PC, working in conjunction with HSI McAllen, learned that members of the Nunez organization, part of the Gulf Cartel, were smuggling large shipments of marijuana into the Washington County area. The shipments were normally concealed inside the tractor trailer with very ripe produce. In addition, the loads were accompanied by a counter surveillance crew of 5 or 6 heavily armed individuals that were prepared to protect the load and ensure its delivery.
As a result of search warrants and the raid: the following items were seized: 2736.3 lbs of marijuana, $552,551 a 2005 Ford F250 truck, 2006 Ford F250 truck, 2005 Dodge Ram 2500 truck, 1999 Freightliner truck, numerous documents and approximately 61 weapons including assault rifles, handguns, rifles and shotguns.
The following individuals were arrested:
In February 2012, a grand jury returned a six count indictment charging Curington, Armstrong, Jeter and Moore with violating a number of federal drug and weapons laws.
All the agencies involved want to thank each other for their hard work because they say if it wasn't for their collaboration, none of this would of been possible.