- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

Owners, managers and drivers of a fleet of commercial bus companies operating out of Mexico through southern Texas to numerous U.S. cities have been indicted in an international scheme to transport marijuana and cocaine into the United States.

The 16-count indictment, filed in a long-term undercover investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) known as “Operation Road King II,” was returned by a Houston grand jury on March 31 and unsealed yesterday at a press conference in Houston.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne said the indictment describes the use of specially-modified commercial buses by drug traffickers interested in smuggling contraband into the U.S. from Monterrey, Mexico, or transporting contraband from the Rio Grande Valley to Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

The indictment accuses the owners and managers of the Transtar, Neptune Tours, Los Primos, USA-MEX and Ameri-Mex commercial bus companies in Monterrey and the Texas cities of Rio Grande City, Roma, San Antonio and Houston with using their companies as fronts for their drug transport services, and hiring drivers and loaders to transport the illegal cargo in hidden compartments built into the bus or in areas not accessible to the public.

In exchange for the services, the indictment said the owners and managers received thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the proceeds of the drug loads. It said the drug transport service had been in operation since at least November 2001 and was responsible for transporting hundreds of kilograms of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana from the border to points north.

Mr. Payne said millions of dollars in drug proceeds were sent to Mexico. He said more than 570 kilograms of cocaine, 3,000 pounds of marijuana and the thousands of dollars in cash were seized by U.S. agents.

The indictment identified Abel Trevino Jr., 43, of Houston; Oscar Jaime Garcia Prado, 42, of Brookshire, Texas; Miguel Montemayor, 39, of Roma, Texas; Victor Hinojosa, 41, of Houston; and Eduardo Trevino, 40, of Linares, Mexico, as the owners and managers of the bus companies.

According to the indictment, the owners and managers charged from $500 per kilogram of cocaine bound for the U.S. side of the border to $7,000 per kilogram of cocaine bound for New York.

The indictment also said the owner and managers discussed ways to operate their buses to protect themselves from detection by law enforcement including changing the names of the bus companies as loads of cocaine and marijuana were seized.

The 18 suspects — owners, managers and drivers — are charged with conspiring to possess cocaine and marijuana with intent to distribute them; they face from 10 years to life imprisonment if convicted. Most also are charged with conspiracy to launder drug proceeds as well as with aiding and abetting drug dealing.

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