BROWNSVILLE, TX — A 10-count federal indictment has been unsealed following the arrest of three Brownsville residents for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Stephen Whipple, acting special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
The indictment was returned under seal April 22, 2014, and unsealed upon the appearances of Mario Enrique Patlan, 44, his daughter Cristina Patlan, 22, and Reymundo Abel Brown Jr., 26, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald G. Morgan. At that time, they were temporarily ordered into custody pending detention hearings set for May 8, 2014.
Mario Patlan is charged with allegedly using his security credentials and position at United Parcel Service (UPS) in order to move drugs through local airports.
“Those that violate the security entrusted to them and bypass normal screening processes that are designed to protect our shipping and transportations systems is something we do not take lightly,” said Magidson. “We will vigorously prosecute anyone we believe has attempted to engage in any criminal behavior that could potentially pose a threat to our national security.”
All are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. Mario Patlan is also charged with attempted possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute, substantive drug offenses as well as three counts of making false statements to federally insured banks. Brown is also charged with attempted possession of controlled substances with the intent to distribute, while Cristina Patlan is named in substantive drug offenses.
Mario Patlan and Brown were UPS employees during the course of the drug conspiracy, according to pleadings filed in the case and worked at UPS facilities operating in Cameron County that shipped parcel through Valley International Airport in Harlingen and Miller International Airport in McAllen.
Mario Patlan held a Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which allows access to commercial aircraft in restricted areas of the airport, according to records. Mario Patlan allegedly used this special security status to load UPS parcels packed with illegal drugs onto commercial aircraft for shipment out of the Rio Grande Valley. Brown allegedly assisted Mario Patlan.
According to the allegations, Cristina Patlan served as a recruiter for the conspiracy. She allegedly sought the business of drug traffickers who wanted to move marijuana via UPS facilities for a fee, typically $50 - $100 per pound. Destinations for the parcels included Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, New York and other locations in the interior of the U.S. Government pleadings suggest one conspirator alone shipped approximately 1,000 pounds or more of marijuana in this manner.
Mario Patlan is also accused of making false statements to get loans from banks to purchase vehicles.
If convicted of the conspiracy, all face up to 40 years in federal prison and a potential $5 million fine. The other drug charges carry either up to five or up to 40 years as possible punishment and more potential fines. Mario Patlan also faces up to 30 years in federal imprisonment on each of the making false statements, upon conviction, as well as a possible $1 million fine. The indictment also includes a notice of forfeiture of a residence and $1 million.
The multi-year investigation was conducted by DEA and IRS-CI with the assistance of Border Patrol and UPS. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles Lewis, David A. Lindenmuth and Carrie Wirsing.