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(McALLEN, Texas) – Four illegal aliens convicted of using the United States Mail to distribute drugs have been sentenced to prison, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.

Leopoldo Perales-Rodriguez, 42, Juan Carlos Hernandez, 22, Victor Hugo Mares, 27, and Margarito Gallardo, 46, all illegally residing in Mission, Texas, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana through the United States Postal system in August 2009. Perales-Rodriguez, Hernandez and Mares mailed parcels on a continual basis for at least one year. Margarito Gallardo mailed parcels and cashed money orders that were sent via the postal system as payments for the mailing of the marijuana. Through a continuous drug interdiction program in McAllen, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) inspectors identified these four persons as members of a group of persons involved in mailing parcels containing marijuana through the mail system. 

Through physical and video surveillance and the execution of search warrants, USPIS inspectors determined this group and its various members were responsible for mailing parcels containing marijuana from various post offices throughout the Rio Grande Valley since May 2008. The parcels were similarly packaged and contained raw beans, sealed in the cap of a can of spray foam to create a rattling sound and wrapped in thick plastic. Later, mustard, salt and pepper were added to the cellophane around the marijuana to serve as masking agents. The packages were destined for various points throughout the United States, principally Connecticut, Puerto Rico, New York and Florida. Overall, the USPIS inspectors developed evidence suggesting this group had shipped in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana through the postal system during the one-year-period they were under investigation.   

Late Monday, Aug. 9, 2010, Chief United States District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa handed down sentences upon each of these four defendants, taking into consideration the actual amount of marijuana seized and connected with each defendant in the group through surveillance, fingerprints and/or similar mailing labels. The amounts ranged from 248 kilograms to 499 kilograms. Additionally, Judge Hinojosa considered the role of each defendant in the conspiracy and other factors including whether the defendant had been involved in recruiting others to join the illegal venture in determining the sentence of each defendant. 

Perales-Rodriguez, both a mailer and recruiter from August 2008 until his May 2009 arrest, was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment to be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. Hernandez, whose involvement in the conspiracy began in March 2009 and ended with his arrest two months later in May 2009, was sentenced to a 27-month prison term which will also be followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. 

Mares, who like Perales-Rodriguez, had been involved in the conspiracy since 2008 and recruited one other person, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment and a three-year-term of supervised release. Gallardo, who joined the conspiracy in January 2009 was sentenced to 30 months incarceration and will serve a three-year-term of supervised release. 

All four defendants, who have been in custody since their May 2009, were remanded into federal custody to serve their respective sentences.

U.S. Postal Inspectors are increasing their efforts to protect the U.S. Mail from criminal misuse in South Texas. Specifically, USPIS is focusing on drug traffickers that attempt to use the mail to distribute illegal narcotics out of the Rio Grande Valley, which is a violation of federal law. Along with agents from the Hidalgo County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force and the Department of Public Safety narcotics unit, postal inspectors are aggressively investigating to identify and arrest persons engaged in the mailing of narcotics.

Anyone having information about persons responsible for mailing narcotics is encouraged to contact the local Postal Inspector’s office at 956-971-1721. The USPIS will pay up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals who use the U.S. Mail to distribute narcotics.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Juan F. Alanis and Patricia Rigney.

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