Mexican cartel (La Familia) drug ring busted in Austin

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Mexican cartel (La Familia) drug ring busted in Austin

This post was updated on .

link to indictment.

Mexican cartel drug ring busted in North Austin, 18 arrested
A total of 18 people were arrested at the J and J Auto Service shop Wednesday as part of a federal investigation involving the DEA.
Other sites claim they are members of la Familia Cartel.

Authorities arrested 18 people at the J and J Auto Service shop on Motheral Drive, near North Lamar Blvd., on Wednesday morning.

AUSTIN (KXAN) - A year-long investigation targeting a cartel drug ring operating out of an Austin mechanic shop netted more than three dozen arrests and copious amounts of narcotics.

In a news conference Wednesday, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice released details on how agents were able to dismantle the drug ring with ties to the La Familia cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Spanx, started in March of 2017 and, during that time, agents were able to identify the focal point for the distribution network was stemming from J & J Auto at 10804 Motheral Dr. — near the intersection of North Lamar Boulevard and Braker Lane.

Authorities also identified Luis Villagrana, 32, of Leander, Texas, as the ringleader behind the Austin office.

"[Villagrana] had direct contact with Mexican command and control heads for the cartel in Mexico and that he was utilizing Austin as his base of operations," Will Glaspy with the DEA said.

Detectives also discovered Villagrana had established drug distribution cells that were scattered throughout the Austin-area.

Drugs Seized
148 pounds of crystal meth
213 kg. of liquid meth (which would've produced 400 pounds of crystal meth)
62 pounds of cocaine
13 pounds of heroin
$400,000 in US currency
The drug ring is accused of moving methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

"The drugs were smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico crossing into Texas from Eagle Pass all the way down to Brownsville and they were shipped directly here to Austin," continued Glaspy.

Once the drugs made it to Austin, authorities said the items were repackaged and then shipped to states across the country.

"This was not just a Central Texas issue, the distribution had its tentacles going nationwide," U.S. Attorney John Bash said.

In the past 24 hours, 18 people were arrested in connection with the sting. Another 10 people who were already in custody for other charges were served federal search warrants. A total of 40 people have been arrested in this case. Most of the suspects live in the Austin-area.

Sonya Johnson has been taking her car to J & J Auto Service for more than a decade, and she says her son was friends with one of the employees who was arrested.

"This is a complete shock to me," said Johnson. "It's the least expecting people, but at the same point in time I can't see it, I really cannot see it from him."

Still, Johnson says she's glad all those drugs are off the streets, and investigators say, let this be a warning.

"We in law enforcement will identify, target and come after any criminal organization that tries to set up shop and conduct their illegal activities in our Central Texas communities," said Glaspy.
The corridor encompassing East Rundberg Lane, North Lamar Boulevard and West Braker Lane has historically had crime issues.

However, Officer Rafael Kianes, who works as APD's district representative in the area, says crime has gone down drastically in the area in recent years.

"When I got here about 10 years ago, the Rundberg area was known for crime, prostitution, drugs, open air drug markets, that sort of thing,” Kianes said.

In 2013, APD received a federal grant to work on innovative ways to clean up the corridor. As a result of the grant, Kianes says officers have begun using special patrol methods that have proven more effective.

Kianes has also helped bridge the gap between APD and community groups, bringing both together to combat crime. A big accomplishment, Kianes says, was creating the Rundberg Educational Advancement District, which provides opportunities for students in the area.

"Over the years, we've seen drastic reductions in violent crime, but more importantly, we've seen the attendance rating at the schools go up above 97 percent," Kianes said. "When we come together as an entire community, you get that huge support and family support, and it really works."

Officer Kianes says crime stats in the corridor are now the lowest they've been in the 10 years he's worked for APD. He says while officers are still faced with some hotspots of criminal activity, a bust as big as the one on Motheral Drive is another great step for the area.

"It's a good news story because we have an area where this is no longer, it's not the norm, it's out of the norm, so we want to make sure we're working on those things to make sure that it doesn't come back," Kianes said.
The complete list of defendants appears below:

Name/Age/Resident/Counts/Statutory maximum penalty

Luis Villagrana/32/Leander/1 - 4/ life imprisonment

Furqan Rashid Sunka/34/Austin/2, 4/life imprisonment

Lauro Toledo/30/Austin/2/life imprisonment

* Blanca Davila-Puente/35/Mission/2, 4/life imprisonment

* Silvia Cerda-Gonzalez/49/Michoacán, Mexico/2, 3, 4/life imprisonment

* Daniel Hernandez/30/Austin/2, 4/life imprisonment

* Anthony Taylor/45/Pflugerville/2/40 years imprisonment

* Victor Vargas-Osorio/25/Austin/2/40 years imprisonment

Juan Vasquez/69/Brownsville/2/life imprisonment

Maria Del Pilar Barcenas/47/Brownsville/2/life imprisonment

Lauro Jaimes/32/Llano/1/life imprisonment

* Rigoberto Vences Bautista/39/Austin/2/life imprisonment

Martin Benitez/38/Austin/2/life imprisonment

* Francisco Gonzalez/30/Mission/2/40 years imprisonment

Esperanza Gerardo/40/Mission/2/life imprisonment

Albert Villagrana/19/Leander/2, 4/life imprisonment

Jesus Ocampo/33/Austin/2, 4/40 years imprisonment

Mike Vertacnik/30/Austin/2/life imprisonment

* Marques Taylor Nunley/27/Austin/2/40 years imprisonment

Rebecca Anaya/26/Austin/2, 3/40 years imprisonment

Claudia Lara-Escalante/26/Houston/4/20 years imprisonment

Leovigildo Martinez/27/Austin/2, 3/life imprisonment

Carlos Garcia-Duarte/40/Dale/1, 2, 3/life imprisonment

* Arturo Juarez-Osorio/36/Austin/2/life imprisonment

* Eduardo Flores-Parra/27/Austin/1, 2/life imprisonment

Rafael Garcia-Duarte/27/Dale/1/life imprisonment

Jose DeJesus Gonzalez/ 27/Austin/1, 2/life imprisonment

Gerardo Arroyo/29/Pflugerville/2/40 years imprisonment

* Already in custody prior to Wednesday's bust

As a side note, 2 years ago the fbi arrested the same amount of folks for the same reason. dont they learn.

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Re: Mexican cartel (La Familia) drug ring busted in Austin

Austin has long been la plaza de Michoacan.
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Re: Mexican cartel (La Familia) drug ring busted in Austin

Can't find the article now, but the Austin package bombings.  DEA before the first one went off, DEA busted a stash house next to the home where the package went off.  The original thought was it was retaliation for the bust.