McALLEN, Texas (AP) — Thirteen people who made their initial appearances in federal court in McAllen Wednesday were among 52 named in an indictment alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy that moved drugs from Mexico up through Texas.
The 13 who appeared in court in McAllen were all charged with conspiring to traffic marijuana and launder money. They also face a variety of additional charges for individual loads of drugs and cash that were singled out in the indictment. In total, the conspiracy is accused of trafficking more than 2,200 pounds of marijuana. Their detention hearings were scheduled for Tuesday.
The conspiracy dates to at least May 2010, and the investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement spanned more than two years. Its targets included command structure, smuggling and distribution for a drug trafficking organization.
Arrests were made Tuesday in the Rio Grande Valley, Houston and border counties near Laredo. Some of those named were already in custody on other charges, and other names in the indictment are still redacted for those who remain on the loose. Some are believed to be in Mexico.
The money laundering charges stem from those involved smuggling cash —the drug proceeds — back to Mexico, according to the partially unsealed indictment.
The Gulf Cartel, based in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, controls the drug trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley. The organization has suffered numerous hits to its leadership in recent years as members have been arrested by authorities on both sides of the border or have been killed by rivals.
Still, the Border Patrol seized nearly 900,000 pounds of marijuana in the Rio Grande Valley sector, which borders much of the cartel's territory, in fiscal year 2012.