Jury convicts Pharr man in marijuana smuggling conspiracy
McAllen, TEXAS (KVEO NEWSCENTER 23) — A federal jury in McAllen has convicted Erick Ochoa-Rodriguez, 19, of Pharr, on two counts of conspiring to possess and actually possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute the controlled substance to another, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The verdicts were returned earlier today after nearly three days of trial.
Ochoa-Rodriguez was charged in an indictment returned on Nov. 13, 2012. During the trial, the government presented photos, maps and witness testimony illustrating his attempt to receive 175 kilograms of marijuana from unknown individuals carrying the drugs from the border.
On Oct. 29, 2012, Border Patrol agents encountered Ochoa-Rodriguez as he drove his vehicle to a planned rendezvous near a levee within two miles of the border with seven individuals who had carried marijuana bundles from the Rio Grande River. He immediately fled, first in his vehicle and then on foot into a densely forested area. Agents ultimately located him as he was lying in the fetal position within dense overgrowth through the use of a canine unit, trackers and aircraft.
The government also proved this was not the defendant’s first encounter with law enforcement. Additional evidence demonstrated that Ochoa-Rodriguez received 125 kilograms of marijuana from undercover federal agents on June 11, 2012, before successfully fleeing law enforcement on that occasion. The prosecution further introduced evidence obtained from his Facebook account wherein Ochoa-Rodriguez acknowledged coordinating the trafficking of large quantities of marijuana from Mexico into the United States. Further investigation revealed his growing ties with Mexican Drug Cartels and his involvement in cocaine trafficking, illegal possession of firearms, money laundering and other cartel-related crimes.
Ochoa-Rodriguez is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24, 2013, and faces up to 40 years imprisonment.
This case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Border Patrol and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Grady J. Leupold is prosecuting the case.