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Accused of Allowing Cocaine Sales, DFW Club Owner Will Go on Trial in October

Under the watchful eye of two former Dallas cops, a Texas club magnate allowed drug deals at his venue, according to a federal indictment.
Under the watchful eye of two former Dallas cops, a Texas club magnate allowed drug deals at his venue, according to a federal indictment. Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash
At 6:30 a.m. on a Monday in January 2018, Joel Camarena and Armando Banuelos were standing at a screening checkpoint inside Dallas Love Field as TSA agents checked their bags.

In the luggage, the agents found plastic security deposit bags with tens of thousands of dollars inside. Camarena had $100,000 in his bag and Banuelos had $48,050 in his. They also had federal reporting forms to list the cash on hand, but the paperwork only accounted for $30,000.

When the police showed up, Camarena told them he managed a regional Mexican singer-songwriter named Geraldo Ortiz. He claimed Ortiz had just played a show at Far West nightclub in Pleasant Grove, among other shows in Texas that week, and that he was just carrying the money for the musician. Banuelos also said he was carrying money for Ortiz.

Then, a drug dog came sniffing around and alerted an odor of narcotics on the deposit bags. Camarena fessed up. He told police he got the money from someone named “Chava” at Far West. After he was arrested at the airport, Camarena found himself facing a federal charge of conspiracy to evade reporting requirements.

The year before, “Chava,” Far West and several other people and clubs across DFW were at the center of a federal indictment regarding money laundering and selling cocaine

Alfredo Navarro Hinojosa owned several nightclubs and businesses in Texas and elsewhere, including Far West in Pleasant Grove. In total, his more than 40 businesses brought in about $107 million in revenue between 2014 and 2016.

In the indictment, Hinojosa is accused of letting people sell cocaine in his clubs. His attorneys didn't respond for comment, but Hinojosa's trial is slated to kick off in October.

Hinojosa hired and was supported by friends and family, including Miguel Casa, Martin Salvador Rodriguez (aka “Chava”), Humberto Baltazar Novoa, Josephine Hinojosa and others.

The indictment claims Hinojosa and his managers, including Casas and Rodriguez, allowed dealers to peddle cocaine to nightclub patrons. Authorities also say Hinojosa was recorded saying, “We can’t really clean it [up - the cocaine sales] because then we lose business … They want it [cocaine] right there. They don’t want to go looking downtown.”

Dealers would sell anywhere from 100-200 baggies of coke at $20 a pop each weekend the club was open. Altogether, the indictment says, dealers sold what amounted to several kilograms of cocaine, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Hinojosa, Casas and Rodriguez allegedly chose certain dealers over others to operate in the clubs, according to federal authorities. Some of the alleged dealers included Eloy Alvardo Montantes, aka “Erick Lopez”; Raul Nunez, aka “Junior”; Cesar Mendez; Juan Antonio Lara; Jose Javier Mendoza-Martinez, aka “Grenas”; Humberto Ovila-Cruz; and Mauricio Garcia-Mentado.

"They want it [cocaine] right there. They don’t want to go looking downtown.” – Alfredo Navarro Hinojosa, club owner

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Neither Hinojosa nor the managers personally sold or handled the cocaine, the indictment admits. Nor did they take a direct cut of the cash from the cocaine sales. But the indictment claims they all relied on the drug sales to drive profits at the clubs.

The feds also claim Hinojosa dealt in large amounts of cash to hide “the true nature of certain cash deposits from government regulators" and regularly discussed the most effective ways to launder the money.

They also allegedly used other techniques, including shell companies and unusual deposits and transfers to conceal certain activities. Some business transactions with bands who traveled back and forth to Mexico included “explicit attempts to launder money,” according to the indictment.

The feds also named two former Dallas Police officers, Edward Villarreal and Craig Woods.

Villarreal worked for DPD from 1994 to 2015. Between 2001 and 2017, he also worked as a security consultant and Hinojosa's head of security. He allegedly used his position at the department to help Hinojosa.

Woods was an officer with the department from 1981 to 2017. From 2001 to 2017, he also served as a private security guard at Hinojosa’s Far West club in Dallas. Woods also is accused of using his position at DPD to benefit Hinojosa.

The way the indictment explains it, Villarreal often worked nights at the clubs and interacted regularly with management. He supervised other Dallas police or law enforcement officers working off-duty as security at the clubs. Hinojosa would also call upon Villarreal to work through legal or criminal matters that affected the club or employees. Eventually, federal authorities say, Villarreal was making more money working for Hinojosa than he did for DPD.

In April 2015, FBI agents started surveilling Rodriguez. They followed him as he left his home in Dallas. Rodriguez suspected he was being tailed, so he called Villarreal for advice. Villarreal told him to pull over. Then, Villarreal drove to the location in his police car, pulled up behind the FBI vehicle and turned on his red and blue emergency lights.

The FBI agents stopped and Villarreal approached them. They exchanged information and Villarreal offered his assistance with their investigation. But Villarreal allegedly did this in an attempt to could provide information to Hinojosa, Rodriguez, and others.

Villarreal called Hinojosa to let him know about the surveillance. He later called the FBI agents to report a drug dealer at the club to throw off the investigation, according to the indictment. Villarreal continued to relay information about the investigation to the club owner and managers as he got it from the FBI. When the FBI asked Villareal the following month if he was feeding information to the club owner, he denied it.

Around 2:42 a.m. one morning in May 2015, Woods called Villarreal. Woods was working an off-duty security job at Far West. Villarreal helped supervise that security. Woods told Villarreal he saw a bouncer “got this one guy down between two trucks and was whipping his ass with a flashlight,” according to the indictment. Hinojosa was also present when this happened. Officers at the club called for an ambulance because they couldn’t get the man to regain consciousness.

Woods told Villarreal he wrote the report as if it was an injured person and no one knew what happened to him. According to the indictment, the two discussed how Far West and Hinojosa owed them for the false report.

When the FBI and a DPD detective asked Woods about the report, he said he wasn’t aware of any officers changing, downplaying or falsifying reports. He also denied writing the report about the incident with the bouncer.

The two former officers pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Hinojosa initially pleaded guilty to conspiring to manage a drug premises and conspiracy to launder money. Under those charges, he faced up to 25 years in prison and would have been forced to forfeit $200,000, a Ferrari, a Range Rover, a Hummer, a Mercedes-Benz and a motorhome. But he's since changed his plea to not guilty.
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Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn