BROWNSVILLE — On a long table in front of the podium in Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio’s office were 58 plastic-wrapped bundles of uncut cocaine and dozens of stacks of $20 and $100 bills wrapped in rubber bands.
The illicit items were on display for reporters called to a sheriff’s department press conference Tuesday morning to publicize the haul, which took place Aug. 8 and resulted in the arrest of two men on narcotics charges: Esteban Salinas Jr., 32, of Brownsville and Edward Alexander Salazar, 22, of Miami, Fla.
Lucio said the department’s Special Investigations Unit had been conducting surveillance on a suspected drug house in the 400 block of St. Michael Avenue, less than eight miles from the sheriff’s department, when investigators saw two men leave the residence and get into a silver Chevrolet pickup.
After following the pickup to several locations, investigators observed the driver failing to come to a complete stop at Lindale Drive and East Price Road, whereupon a K-9 deputy pulled the truck over, Lucio said.
Lucio said the deputy noticed that the men’s stories conflicted, then deployed his drug-detecting dog, Rexo, for a “free air sniff.” The dog indicated the presence of narcotics at the pickup’s rear doors.
The deputy searched the passenger area and found a plastic bin containing 12 bundles of a white, powdery substance that appeared to be cocaine, Lucio said. A search warrant was obtained for the residence on St. Michael Avenue. Executing the warrant, deputies and investigators discovered 46 additional bundles of suspected cocaine in the kitchen, along with approximately $493,460 in U.S. currency, Lucio said.
The 58 bundles of cocaine together weighed 66 kilograms, or 145.5 pounds, with an estimated street value of $4.62 million, he said. Salinas and Salazar were charged with possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, a first-degree felony, Lucio said.
“These officers did a fantastic job,” he said. “They continually worked day and night. I want to congratulate them again because we took all this cocaine out of the market.”
While the amount seized was “just a small portion,” Lucio said, it nevertheless causes smugglers pain “when we take their loads and their money.”
The sheriff also used the press conference to announce an arrest in a 20-year-old homicide cold case. After being detained by Mexican authorities at the B&M International Bridge, Gabriel Deleon was handed over to sheriff’s deputies on Aug. 7.
Deleon was wanted for the Nov. 7, 1995, killing of security guard Marcos Rodriguez, who was found dead in a ditch near his car on FM 803, about a mile north of FM 511 in the early morning hours.
Deleon, a U.S. citizen, is the third person arrested in the case, Lucio said. Deleon’s sister Gloria Deleon is also wanted in the case but is believed to be in Mexico. She would be in her mid-40s today, Lucio said.
“We’re still working to determine her whereabouts,” he said.