Mission man pleads true in drug conspiracy case

MGN Online

A third person has pleaded true in a drug conspiracy case that involved cocaine and a carjacking.

Daniel Herrera-Bear pleaded guilty Thursday to a carjacking charge he faces in connection with the case.

According to the indictment against Herrera-Bear, 38, of Mission, and four others — Emily Julieta Gonzalez, 23, of Edinburg, Jorge Alberto De Leon, 27, of Mission, Ruben Artemio Villarreal Jr., and Israel Hernandez; ages and last known residence unlisted — the group conspired with each other to import more than 5 kilos of cocaine from Mexico.

The five were implicated in the conspiracy after an incident in March when 9 kilos of cocaine were found inside a Chevrolet Trailblazer that belonged to Gonzalez’s uncle.

On March 18, Gonzalez entered the country from Mexico in the Trailblazer.

After she crossed into the U.S., Gonzalez was seen on surveillance footage arriving at a business in Hidalgo — less than 30 minutes after crossing the U.S.

“According to the surveillance footage, less than ten minutes after the arrival of the Trailblazer, two other vehicles, including a white Volkswagen Beetle, arrive and enter the parking lot. The two vehicles park near the Trailblazer and individuals from the vehicles enter the Trailblazer and leave in the Trailblazer,” court records show.

Gonzalez, when interviewed by law enforcement, claimed the people in the footage took her SUV without her consent.

An hour after the vehicle was stolen, Mission police, with help from Gonzalez’s uncle, found the SUV abandoned near Los Ebanos road in Mission. Police captured footage of a vehicle, a Chevrolet Malibu, as it left the scene near the SUV as they were arriving, the complaint states.

Gonzalez’s uncle located the vehicle using the GPS, and a killswitch to disable the vehicle.

“(Gonzalez’s uncle) stated that after the killswitch was activated several individuals exited the vehicle and entered other vehicles to flee the scene,” the document shows.

Subsequently, police officers discovered the cocaine inside the Trailblazer.

Eventually a cooperating informant implicated De Leon, Herrera-Bear, in the carjacking.

The CI told authorities De Leon was in the Volkswagen Beetle that was used to conduct the carjacking, while Herrera-Bear was the mastermind behind the carjacking’s planning, and provided information regarding Gonzalez’s Trailblazer and the drugs inside the vehicle.

Federal agents eventually executed search warrants on both Herrera-Bear’s and De Leon’s respective places of residence, and were able to gather evidence that the two were in communication regarding the carjacking.

“During a search of De Leon’s phone, Agents also found WhatsApp conversations with other individuals including a contact saved as ‘Chamoy,’ who has been identified as (Herrera-Bear) based on the cell phone number known to be used by Herrera-Bear,” the complaint states. “During a review of the WhatsApp conversations, Agents found audio messages with Herrera-Bear on April 19, 2020 discussing the purchase of a cell phone jammer that could be used to prevent the use of GPS or cell phone signals from being sent.”

De Leon’s phone also contained screenshots or photos of Hidalgo (Police Department) and the (U.S. Homeland Security Investigations) McAllen Office at times that the tracker would have been located at said location.

“Agents also located screenshots of reporting from The Monitor detailing the federal arrest of (Gonzalez) on De Leon’s phone,” the court record shows.

Based on the cell site locations found on their respective phones, De Leon and Herrera-Bear were in the vicinity of the carjacking, and of the abandoned vehicle, respectively.

According to a subsequent redacted indictment, Villarreal, and Hernandez are implicated as playing a role in the initial carjacking.

Gonzalez and De Leon each pleaded guilty to one count related to the drug conspiracy on Sept. 23. They are each set for sentencing Dec. 16, records show. Villarreal and Hernandez, are the two holdouts and are each set for pre-trial conferences in the near future.

Additionally, Herrera-Bear is scheduled for sentencing Dec. 16 before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, records show.

READ THE COMPLAINT: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7217198-Bear-Conspiracy-2-5.html

lzazueta@themonitor.com