Only a few days ago, The Dallas Morning News ran a piece about Texas' Tango Blast gang, which was formed within the confines of the state's penitentiaries and "could change the Dallas landscape because it rejects old notions of prison gang exclusivity and lifelong commitments," wrote Tanya Eiserer. (The D-Town Tango Blast members sport tattoos like the one above, a reference to the Dallas Cowboys.) Five days later, the U.S. Attorney sends word that 13 of the Tango Blast-ers -- including a 28-year-old from Arlington who goes by the name "Burrito" -- were arrested today for allegedly running so mammoth a cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking organization that it took a dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies two years to bring it down. The full details concerning the bust-up of an operation that extended from Abilene to North Texas are after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky
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ARRESTS DISMANTLE COCAINE AND METHAMPHETAMINE TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION IN ABILENE, TEXAS
Defendants Arrested are Members of the West Texas Puro Tango Blast Prison Gang
ABILENE, Texas - Ten members of the West Texas Puro Tango Blast prison gang allegedly involved in a major cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking organization operating in the Abilene, Texas, area, and throughout North Texas, were arrested without incident this morning by federal, state and local law enforcement officers in an early morning round-up, announced U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper of the Northern District of Texas. The arrests were made in the Abilene area as well as in Brownsville, Arlington, and Corpus Christi, Texas.
Two additional alleged members of that organization are already in custody on related charges; another alleged member is a fugitive. All 13 defendants are charged in a 13-count federal indictment returned in Lubbock last month and unsealed this morning.
U.S. Attorney Roper said, "Today's enforcement action, the culmination of a nearly two year investigation, has effectively shut down a dangerous drug trafficking organization operating in Abilene. Once again, an operation such as this demonstrates the commitment of federal, state and local law enforcement to work together to aggressively address drug dealing and take the profit out of illegal narcotics sales."
"Today marks the culmination of a successful two year investigation into the criminal activity of the West Texas Puro Tango Blast prison gang," said Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI. Casey continued, "This collaborative effort on the part of the federal government and local law enforcement to aggressively deal with drug, gun and violent gang activity here in West Texas continues to achieve positive results. The FBI remains committed to the disruption and dismantlement of these organized violent gangs through the continued multi-agency Task Force concept. I would specifically like to thank the efforts of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Abilene Police Department, Taylor County Sheriff's Office, Stephens County Sheriff's Office, Arlington Police Department, Brownsville Police Department, Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Security Threat Group, West Central Texas Inter-Local Task Force, U.S. Marshal's Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Drug Enforcement Administration."
Those defendants arrested this morning are:
- Ricardo Valdiviez, a/k/a "Ricky," 24, Brownsville, Texas
- Ramiro Olivo, a/k/a "Burrito," 28, of Arlington, Texas
- Steven Ildefonso Flores, 33, of Abilene, Texas
- Larry Villareal, 32, of Abilene, Texas
- Serafin Moreno, a/k/a "Serf," 31, of Corpus Christi, Texas
- Eric Tonche, a/k/a "Quat," 27, of Abilene, Texas
- Jacob Adam Garcia, a/k/a "Little Jake," 25, of Abilene, Texas
- Lorenzo Barela, 29, of Abilene, Texas
- Rolando Solis, 27, of Abilene, Texas
- Jennifer Grace Cortez, 26, of Abilene, Texas
Defendant Fidel Hernandez Gomez, a/k/a "Gordo," 44, an illegal alien who resided in Abilene, is already in custody on federal charges and defendant Joe Anthony Diaz, 26, of Abilene, Texas, is in custody on state charges.
Defendant David Rodriguez, 34, a/k/a "Super Dave," remains a fugitive.
James L. Capra, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Dallas Division, said, "The arrests and seizures made today will significantly impact and disrupt this large scale drug trafficking organization. Today's actions of determined federal, state and local agencies ensure that our communities will be safer. Illegal drugs do not discriminate, and they attack the very core of our society. The people of the Abilene area need to know that we are committed to serving this fine community and we will be relentless in our efforts to ensure that our communities continue to be safe and a great place to live and raise children."
All of the defendants will make their initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Abilene, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip R. Lane, on Tuesday, December 9, 2008.
Defendants Ricardo Valdiviez, David Rodriguez, Ramiro Olivo, Steven Ildefonso Flores, Joe Anthony Diaz, Larry Villareal, Serafin Moreno, Eric Tonche, Jacob Adam Garcia, and Jennifer Grace Cortez are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Defendants Fidel Hernandez Gomez, Ramiro Olivo, Steven Ildefonso Flores, Larry Villareal, Serafin Moreno, Eric Tonche, Jacob Adam Garcia, and Rolando Solis, are charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine.
Several of the defendants are also charged in substantive counts and defendants Eric Tonche and Lorenzo Barela are also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Defendant Rolando Solis is also charged with possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
The indictment alleges that participants in the conspiracy, as members and associates of the West Texas Puro Tango Blast criminal organization, distributed, and possessed with intent to distribute, cocaine and methamphetamine. They would acquire large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine, transport it to various locations, and then store it at various locations.
An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. However, if convicted, each of the defendants, with the exception of Lorenzo Barela, faces a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million. Barela, who is not currently charged in the conspiracy, faces a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
While stating the investigation is ongoing, U.S. Attorney Roper praised the excellent investigative efforts of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), FBI, DEA, Texas Department of Public Safety, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, West Central Texas Interlocal Crime Task Force, Abilene Police Department, Taylor County Sheriff's Office, Stephens County Sheriff's Office, and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Security Threat Group Gang Intelligence Unit.