It was a sweltering afternoon in early July when several DEA agents and police officers showed up at the house at 1215 Lebanon Avenue, a tiny, burnt-orange home fronting some railroad tracks in Oak Cliff. They weren't sure what to expect. It was just a friendly knock-and-talk, meaning they had no warrant. But one never knows how inhabitants of a suspected drug house will react when several police, badges and uniforms clearly visible, descend upon them en masse.
The front door was propped open when they arrived, and they were invited inside, where they were greeted by Jose Roberto Reyna-Cardenas, who took them into a rear bedroom to talk. The DEA agents asked for permission to search the house, which Reyna-Cardenas granted without a pause.
The ink from his signature wasn't even dry when the agents determined that the search would not be very arduous. The acrid scent of marijuana was already overwhelming and, turning slightly, they spotted several very large bundles of weed stacked by the bedroom door. Another agent found similar bundles in a separate bedroom, along with a high-capacity digital scale. Even more was stuffed into black trash bags filling the bathroom cabinets.
Reyna-Cardenas spoke freely with police. He lived at the house, but the weed wasn't his, he explained. It was stored there until he would get a call from his business associates telling him how much a certain customer needed, and he would weigh and package the drugs for delivery. The handgun police found behind the hot water heater wasn't his, either, though he did volunteer that he is in the country illegally.
All told, police seized 611 pounds of weed from the Oak Cliff home that afternoon, but it was clear that Reyna-Cardenas wasn't exactly in business for himself. The DEA and other law enforcement agencies spent the next three-and-a-half months piecing together who else was involved.
The result is the federal indictment filed last week and unsealed today. It accussed Reyna-Cardenas and 17 others of engaging in a conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Along with Reyna-Cardenas, there are, among others, Gordo (rough translation: Fatty), whose given name is Andres Hernandez Jr.; Lentes (Glasses), or Pedro Menchaca; and Chaparro (Shorty), or Virgilio Delacruz Espinoza.
During the sweep, the feds seized lots of marijuana, some cocaine, multiple cars, and several guns. Gordo, Lentes, and Gordo's wife, Griselda Hernandez are also charged with laundering money through a front business.