MCALLEN — A San Benito man and McAllen man were handed down hefty prison sentences for drug trafficking recently.
Alfonso Mata, 55, and Abelino Garza, 36, of San Benito and McAllen, respectively, pleaded guilty Feb. 5, 2013.
Late last month Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa handed Mata a total sentence of 87 months in federal prison, while Garza was ordered to serve a 120-month-term.
Both men also will serve five years of supervised release.
The Drug Enforcement Administration agent in charge Joseph M. Arabit, Houston Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced the pair have been ordered to federal prison following their convictions of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute large amounts of cocaine and money laundering,
In 2012, federal law enforcement agents determined Mata and others were transporting large quantities of cocaine from South Texas to several cities in Ohio.
As a result, agents arrested Mata’s associates for drug offenses committed in the Midwest.
Mata was later arrested along with Garza and Alberto Garcia-Saldivar for their participation in the transportation of approximately 30 kilograms of cocaine from San Benito to Toledo, Ohio.
Agents eventually seized 17 vehicles, including several classic cars and eight properties, which Mata admitted he had purchased with drug profits.
The combined value of the seized property is $1.5 million.
Garcia-Saldivar, 48, of San Benito, also pleaded guilty and was previously sentenced to 36 months in prison.
All three men will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The convictions are a culmination of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation dubbed “Landing Strip.”
To date, there have been approximately 10 other convictions in Texas and Ohio in relation to the investigation.
The three-year investigation targeting Mata and other significant drug traffickers based in San Benito, was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, FBI, Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, police departments in San Benito, Brownsville, Port Isabel, Harlingen, as well as the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse Salazar.